N.J. to celebrate first Juneteenth as an official state holiday

The Juneteenth Parade makes its way down 52nd Street in West Philadelphia Saturday where it was being held for the first year after moving from Center City Philadelphia. (Brad Larrison for WHYY)

The Juneteenth Parade makes its way down 52nd Street in West Philadelphia Saturday where it was being held for the first year after moving from Center City Philadelphia. (Brad Larrison for WHYY)

New Jersey will celebrate Juneteenth as a state holiday for the first time this year, joining dozens of states in observing the day in some fashion.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas learned they were freed. The news reached them more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, took effect in 1863.

Even as Juneteenth is becoming more widely celebrated, Gov. Phil Murphy says the state has to ensure everyone has equal access to all aspects of society — including education, health care, and housing.

“We must use this day to take stock of where we are as a nation and a state in achieving true equality for all Americans, especially the Black and brown Americans who have lived with the vestiges of systemic racism,” said Murphy, who signed legislation making Juneteenth a state holiday last year.

In Congress, there’s an effort to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. The Senate voted in favor of the proposal Tuesday and the House is expected to pass the measure Wednesday.

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