Juneteenth — a commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States — is now an official New York City holiday, Mayor Eric Adams announced Monday.
“As the second Black mayor of New York City, I know that I stand on the shoulders of countless heroes and sheroes who put their lives on the line to secure a more perfect union,” he said in a statement. “Now is the time for me to do a small part and recognize one of our nation’s greatest wrongs.”
The paid holiday is being enacted via the issuance of a Department of Citywide Administrative Services personnel order that will apply to all city workers, and an amendment of the collective bargaining agreement by City Hall’s Office of Labor Relations and municipal employee unions, according to a mayoral spokesperson.
The move comes after Congress last year passed a law designating Juneteenth, which falls on June 19, as a federal holiday. A day later, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Juneteenth would be an official holiday in the Empire State.
After Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 brought a renewed focus to the historical oppression of black Americans, private companies also started to observe Juneteenth with some designating it as a paid company holiday.
Last year, the end of slavery was commemorated across the country with a series of parades, including the unveiling of a statue of George Floyd in Brooklyn and New York landmarks being lit red, black and green.
One of America’s oldest holidays, Juneteenth marks the official end of slavery in the US on the date in 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform the last remaining Confederate sympathizers that they’d lost the Civil War so all slaves must be freed.
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” Union Gen. Gordon Granger read aloud to the residents of Galveston, according to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
“Juneteenth is a time for reflection, assessment, and self-improvement. People across the country of all races, nationalities, and religions unite on this day to truthfully acknowledge the stain of slavery and celebrate the countless contributions of Black Americans,” said the mayor in the Monday morning press release. “It’s time for our city to finally do what’s right and officially designate Juneteenth as a city holiday.”
“This decision is long overdue, which is why it will immediately take effect this year,” he added. “Holding a mirror to our nation’s past atrocities is never easy, but it is necessary.”
In June 2021, Juneteenth became the 12th federal holiday, and the first new one created since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established in 1983.
During the final days of his successful 2021 Democratic mayoral primary, Adams ripped rival contenders Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia for campaigning together in the ranked-choice voting election on Juneteenth, claiming allying against a black candidate on June 19 sent “the wrong message.”