Illinois holidays could soon include Juneteenth after bill passes state Senate committee

What is Juneteenth celebrating? June 19 marks the day slaves were freed
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- A bill passed Wednesday in an Illinois state Senate committee to make Juneteenth Day a state holiday.

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, is pushing the proposal, Senate Bill 1965, which is now headed for debate on the Senate floor.

Juneteenth National Freedom Day on June 19 marks the day slaves were freed.

"On June 19, 1865, the last slaves were freed, which created a milestone for Black Americans that should be celebrated and used to help educate youth today," Lightford said. "Making Juneteenth a state holiday is a way of highlighting our freedom and reminding us how far we've come."

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which established that all enslaved people in Confederate states were forever free. On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed, leading to the name Juneteenth.

RELATED: How far has the fight for racial justice come since Juneteenth?

Senate Bill 1965 creates a state holiday for Juneteenth National Freedom Day on June 19, which would be a paid day off for all state employees and a school holiday, a news release said.

Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the "second American Independence Day." It has grown from the celebration of the abolition of slavery into a celebration of African American arts, culture and the impacts of the civil rights movement throughout the country, the release said.

"June 19, 1865 is the day the United States truly became the land of the free," Lightford said. "It's a day everyone should celebrate, and it's a reminder that Black Americans are still recovering from the terrible legacy of slavery."
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