Government offices in the Kanawha Valley will be closed Friday to mark Juneteenth, a day traditionally celebrated in Black communities to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S.
Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with word of freedom for enslaved people on June 19, 1865. It had been 2 1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved people in the southern states and a little more than two months after Confederate Gen. Robert Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses Grant in Appomattox, Virginia.
President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a bill from Congress making Juneteenth, or June 19, the country’s 12th federal holiday. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in the early 1980s to honor the late civil rights leader.
Gov. Jim Justice on Thursday declared Juneteenth a state holiday, as well. Because the actual holiday falls on a Saturday, Justice said state offices will be closed Friday in observance. State and federal offices will be closed.
The Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs is hosting a virtual Juneteenth celebration, featuring former R&B artist turned pastor Montell Jordan, known for his hit “This is How We Do It,” as well as local dancers, musicians and poets. The event will be streamed on the office’s Facebook page at 5 p.m. Saturday and shown on West Virginia Public Broadcasting at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Charleston city offices also will be closed Friday, according to a city release. The Kanawha County Commission also announced the county courthouse would be closed Friday and that the day would be a holiday for county employees. Public safety and emergency services will continue as usual, as will activities at county parks and recreation areas, according to a county release.