CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Juneteenth is now a state holiday in Nevada, which is joining a growing number of states including Texas, New York, Virginia and Washington that honor the day when the last enslaved people in the United States learned they were free.
Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo signed the bill into law on Thursday, elevating the June 19 holiday from a day of observance to a state holiday, meaning many state employees can take the day off. It now joins holidays including New Years’ Day, Veterans Day, July 4, Labor Day, Nevada Day and Christmas.
The measure passed by votes of 40 to 1 in the state Assembly and 19 to 2 in the state Senate.
“As the first state to ratify the 15th Amendment, which gave African Americans the right to vote, Nevada has a long and proud history of supporting civil rights,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Claire Thomas, one of the bill sponsors. “By designating Juneteenth as a state holiday, Nevada continues to honor that legacy and celebrate the progress that has been made in the fight for equality.”
The celebration stems from when news of the slavery abolition reached Galveston, Texas, in 1865 — two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in the U.S. and five months after the 13th Amendment’s signing, which declared all enslaved people free.
The annual celebration started in Texas but spread as Black Texans moved elsewhere. Hundreds of companies also give employees the day off.