Chatham County commissioners approve Juneteenth as county holiday

Pittsboro, NC – On June 21, 2021, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution declaring June 19th as Juneteenth and proclaiming it a recognized county holiday.

On June 19, 1865, Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas with the news that the war was over and the enslaved were now free.

The Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, declared enslaved people in states of rebellion free. April 9, 1865, marks the unofficial end of the American Civil War, with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, though the formal declaration of the end of the war by President Andrew Johnson would not come until August 20, 1866. On June 19, 1865, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas were among the last to be informed that the Emancipation Proclamation was in effect and slavery had been abolished in states of rebellion, including Texas.

In 1866, freed people in Texas celebrated the anniversary of June 19th with church gatherings and worship. Juneteenth is the combination of the words June and Nineteenth. It is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day and Cel-Liberation Day. For the over 150 years since the end of the American Civil War, Juneteenth has been one of the oldest national celebrations of the end of slavery in the United States.

“I am deeply grateful for my fellow commissioners and the incredible, supportive staff who helped make this happen,” said Chatham County Commissioner Karen Howard, who read the resolution and made the motion to declare June 19th as Juneteenth and a county holiday. “Juneteenth is a time to reflect and take stock of the progress made since the abolition of slavery as well as the progress not made, and I encourage residents and employees to use the day to take action to advance freedom and equality.”

On June 15th, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. It subsequently passed through the U.S. House of Representatives on June 16th. President Joe Biden signed the bill on June 17th, making Juneteenth the eleventh American federal holiday and the first to obtain legal observance as a federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was designated in 1983.