HAMPTON — On Friday, June 18, Gov. Ralph Northam commemorated Juneteenth in an event at Fort Monroe National Monument.
This year’s observation was the first year in which Juneteenth was celebrating as an official, permanent holiday in the Commonwealth.
“Our recognition of Juneteenth signifies that we understand its importance to all Americans—it was on this day in 1865 that our nation took one step closer toward its promise of liberty and justice for all,” said Governor Northam. “While it did not end racism, oppression, or violence, it is an important symbol of hope—and a reminder of the constant struggle for equality. As we continue the work of telling the full and accurate story of our shared history, we must also acknowledge historical moments like this, even as they challenge us to reckon with our past and our present.”
Gov. Northam first declared Juneteenth a holiday in the Commonwealth in 2020 and it was codified in Virginia law earlier this year. On Thursday, June 17, Pres. Biden signed the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,” designating the celebration as a legal public holiday. This is the first time a new national holiday has been approved since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 1983.
“When we elevate Juneteenth as a legal holiday, we invite people to think about its significance,” said Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Janice Underwood. “All Virginians are encouraged to learn about and reflect on the historical events that made Juneteenth necessary, because this collective understanding will make us stronger and more united.”
Virginia’s government has agreed to partner with the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, 428 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd in Richmond, to distribute a new book entitled, “Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality.” The book is based on an exhibit that the museum had in 2019 to discuss the fight for Black Americans for equality. The goal of the state government is to provide a copy of this book for every middle and high public school in the Commonwealth.
“The Virginia Museum of History and Culture is proud to partner with the Commonwealth to make this important history more available and accessible in schools and libraries,” said Jamie Bosket, President and CEO of the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. “Determined was one of our most successful and highly-visited exhibits, and we created this book to ensure the important story it told, and the vast work from the historians and curators involved, would be lasting. After more than four years of research, we are honored to put forward this new resource for all those seeking to learn more about our shared past.”
Earlier this year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Fort Monroe as a Site of Memory Associated with the UNESCO Slave Route project.