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Juneteenth officially a state holiday in Washington

Crowds outside Ezells Chicken listen to march organizers explain gentrification issues in this historically black neighborhood during the Juneteenth Freedom March and Celebration on June 19, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Supporters call it an historic day for efforts to end systemic racism and create a more equitable Washington as Gov. Inslee has officially made Juneteenth a legal state holiday.

“My hope is that Juneteenth will be a holiday celebrated by all Washingtonians, like July 4th, a holiday that brings us together in fellowship,” said Democratic Rep. Melanie Morgan.

June 19 will now be a paid holiday for state employees, but Morgan, who is also a member of the Black Caucus, says it’s about much more than that.

“This is commemorating the end of chattel slavery,” she said.

She says creating the holiday is a continuation of their work started last year with the state equity office.

“This says we belong as Black African-Americans, that we are human. And I believe it’s another step toward declaring Washington state as an anti-racist state,” Morgan said.

Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when Union soldiers told the last Black slaves in Galveston, Texas, that they were free — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott contributed to this report.

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