CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Juneteenth will be a city holiday beginning next year at Monday's Juneteenth flag-raising ceremony at Daley Plaza.
"I, like many others, didn't even know anything about Juneteenth until I was an adult and that's because it's never been treated with the reverence that it should be," Lightfoot said.
Juneteenth is observed on June 19th. It commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. It took two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation for Black people in Galveston, Texas to learn that they were free.
Starting this year, Juneteenth is a paid holiday in Cook County. The county is hosting in-person and virtual programming throughout the week.
"We led this charge. Beside Black history is American history. The emancipation of our ancestors should be honored," said State Sen. Maj. Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Westchester.
"The USA today would not be what it is now without the work of what our community, what our ancestors did," 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin said.
In response to the racial awakening last year, there has been a renewed pushed to recognize Juneteenth.
Lightfoot said the holiday serves as a reminder of how far the nation has come, but also how much work is left unfinished, including here in Chicago.
"Slavery might have officially ended in 1865 but we are still grappling with the vestiges of that original sin here today, from historic neighbor disinvestment to institutional racism that holds our people back from realizing their God-given potential," Lightfoot said.
There is currently a bill sitting on Governor JB Pritzker's desk that, if he signs it before Saturday, would make Illinois the 47th state so far to officially recognize Juneteenth as a holiday.
Chicago to recognize Juneteenth as city holiday starting next year
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