JACKSONVILLE — A bill that passed Thursday in the Illinois House could make Juneteenth a state-recognized holiday.
Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
The House approved Senate Bill 1965, which already had been passed by the Senate, without opposition.
The bill now will go to Gov. J.B. Pritzker's desk. If Pritzker signs the bill into law, it would take effect in 2022, making June 19 Illinois' 13th official state holiday.
"I am happy that this has finally got this far in Illinois," said Doris Robinson, secretary for the NAACP's Jacksonville chapter.
Under the legislation, June 19 would be a school holiday and a paid day off for all state employees. When the holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday would be a holiday for state employees.
Recognizing the day as a paid holiday gives it more significance, which could lead to more people wanting to learn about it and more likely to consider it important, Robinson said.
"It has the same impact in the African American community as the Fourth of July has in the nation as a whole," she said.
While recognized elsewhere, Juneteenth most commonly is celebrated in Texas, where it has been a state holiday since 1980.
Juneteenth is an opportunity to talk about history, Robinson said, noting that it's an opportunity to learn about the culture, art and influences that African Americans have had in the country.
"I'm happy that parts of our history that have been omitted are now being publicized and highlighted," she said.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862. It took effect on Jan. 1, 1863, though slaves were not set free in Confederate states until the Union army gained control of those areas.
On June 18, 1865, the Union army arrived in Galveston, Texas. On June 19, 1865, Gen. Gordon Granger announced that slaves in Texas were free by order of the president of the United States.