CHICAGO (WLS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker made Juneteenth a state holiday Wednesday.
Juneteenth, which falls on Saturday, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
Pritzker signed the legislation in Springfield Wednesday morning, surrounded by members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. To commemorate the abolition of slavery throughout the United States and its territories in 1865, Juneteenth will be recognized as National Freedom Day in Illinois.
WATCH: Gov. Pritzker speaks on signing Juneteenth legislation
"This day is a breakthrough in Illinois history, and I'm so grateful to be a part of it," said State Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester).
"It's not a Black holiday. It's an American holiday that we all must celebrate," said State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago).
"Just as Illinois led the nation as the first state to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, in 2021, we are leading the nation in tackling structural racism head on thanks to the guiding vision of Leader Lightford, Representative Ford, Speaker Welch and the entire Illinois Legislative Black Caucus," Pritzker said.
The state now joins the city of Chicago and Cook County in making Juneteenth a holiday. Forty six states to date have made Juneteenth a paid state holiday, and Illinois has become the 47th.
Illinois will recognize Juneteenth throughout the state, lowering all flags covered by the Illinois Flag Display Act to half-staff on June 19. In addition, a Juneteenth flag will fly over the state Capitol in Springfield.
The legislation clarifies that Juneteenth will be a paid holiday for state workers and public education professionals when June 19 falls on a weekday. June 19 falls on a Sunday in 2022, so the first paid state holiday for Juneteenth will be in 2023.
HB 3922 is effective Jan. 1, 2022.
Juneteenth is also one step closer to becoming a federal holiday after the U.S. Senate passed a bill, which is now heading to the House.
County leaders also announced Wednesday that they will light the skyline in red in honor of Juneteenth.
Chicago has a number of events planned Wednesday, leading up to Juneteenth this weekend.
There were speeches and music in Daley Plaza.
"This week we honor the women, the men, the children who were enslaved, those who escaped slavery and those who fought to end this disgraceful period in our nation's history," said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. "This week we finally give Juneteenth the respect and reverence it deserves."
State and local officials said Juneteenth is a reminder of how long Black Americans have fought for equality, and continue to do so today.
"There is much to do to advance racial equality, and I'm committed to this work. As Cook County Board President, I will do everything that I can to center racial equity in my administration," Preckwinkle said.