Juneteenth now an official state holiday in New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks to a colleague before placing the first legal sports bets in the State of New Jersey at Monmouth Park Sports Book by William Hill, in Oceanport
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
REUTERS/Mike Segar

The fourth most diverse state in America distinguished itself recently joining New York and three others to officially declare Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the June 19, 1865 emancipation of enslaved African-Americans.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Sept. 10 publicly signed a bill designating the event and date worthy of celebration and going forward in his state would be marked annually on the third Friday of June.

During a livestream ceremony, the Democrat signed legislation making Juneteenth an indelible imprint with enactment of a state holiday permitting celebration of the end of the Civil War and freedom for African-Americans. His action publicly declared that New Jersey will no longer procrastinate on remedying the injustice of prolonging justice denied two years after President Abraham Lincoln officially made the declaration in 1863.

Unbeknownst to enslaved African-Americans, the news first announced in Galveston, Texas was never disseminated on plantations and other slave holdings.

“It gives me great pride to celebrate emancipation and New Jersey’s great diversity by designating Juneteenth as an official State holiday,” Murphy said.

The news cheered by Jerseyites.

”This is big,” Vivian Chew, a state resident said from her California home. Temporarily displaced to the western state, she boasted the fact that New Jersey was recently named the fourth-most diverse in the nation.

“It’s about time,” Tchaka Tonge, a Teaneck resident added.

The much touted announcement found Murphy joined by rhythm and blues singer SZA on an Instagram session explaining the significance of the news.

“While more work lies ahead to undo the oppression that remains, Juneteenth is an important marker that reminds us of our mission to create a society that enables our Black communities to achieve the full equality which they deserve,” he said.

Nevertheless, he expressed optimism admitting that as a state and nation, “we are still digging out of that legacy and my guess is that we will be for a long time.”

The bill to declare the day a holiday was approved two months ago by the New Jersey state legislature.

New Jersey joins New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Texas in making a declaration to compensate state employees on the official holiday.

Texas, the state where news of the liberation of African-Americans was first announced in Galveston in 1865, was the first state to make Juneteenth a holiday in 1980.

Forty-seven other states have acknowledged the milestone calendar marker with North and South Dakota, and Hawaii the only holdouts to the entire United States.