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Cuomo declares Juneteenth a holiday for New York state employees

Cuomo declares Juneteenth a holiday for state workers
Cuomo says Juneteenth will be a holiday for New York State employees 03:33

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on Wednesday recognizing Juneteenth — a day that commemorates the end of slavery in America — as a holiday for state employees. The holiday is celebrated each year on June 19.

Juneteenth, also called Emancipation Day and Freedom Day, will be a paid day of leave for state employees, with those required to work receiving one additional day off instead. Cuomo will also advance legislation to make Juneteenth a state holiday next year and will consider making it a celebration next year.

"Friday is Juneteenth — a day to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States — and it's a day that is especially relevant in this moment in history," Cuomo said in a news release. "Although slavery ended over 150 years ago, there has still been rampant, systemic discrimination and injustice in this state and this nation, and we have been working to enact real reforms to address these inequalities."

Cuomo said New Yorkers can use the holiday to "reflect on all the changes we still need to make to create a more fair, just and equal society."

"I think this is a period where we could see, we could see monumental change. I want to be a force for change and I want to help synergize this moment," he said in a briefing Wednesday. "If Juneteenth is part of that and recognition of what happened and an understanding of what happened and an acknowledgment of that — great." 

The holiday honors June 19, 1865, when news made it to African Americans in Texas that President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves living in Confederate states two years earlier. 

Former slaves celebrated when Union soldiers finally arrived in Galveston to bring the news that slavery was abolished.

Virginia's governor declares Juneteenth a paid state holiday 01:23

New York is not the first state to move to recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Tuesday did just that. Texas first made the day a state holiday in 1980. 

The states are formally recognizing the holiday amid a nationwide reckoning over racial injustice. Protests against police violence and demands for police reform have continued for weeks, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

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