people celebrating at a festival for Juneteenth in Detroit
Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of the final slaves in the Confederacy on June 19, 1865. (Javier_Aguilera /

Juneteenth is now an official state holiday in Michigan under legislation signed Wednesday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

This story also appeared in Bridge Michigan

The holiday, already recognized by the federal government, at least 28 other states and some private employers, commemorates an June 19, 1865 order from Union Major General Gordon Granger declaring emancipation for enslaved African Americans in Texas, more than two months after the Confederate Army surrendered and more than two years after thenPresident Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

The order, issued by Granger in Galveston, Texas, is widely recognized as the end of slavery in the United States. 

“Juneteenth is a moment of celebration and reflection, but it is also an opportunity to recommit ourselves to action,” Whitmer said in a statement. “June 19 will forever be known as Juneteenth in Michigan and I encourage every Michigander to reflect on our history and celebrate the values that we will continue fighting for together.” 

Legislative votes to designate Juneteenth as an official state holiday were widely bipartisan. Detroit Democratic Rep. Helena Scott, the bill’s sponsor, said Wednesday that establishing Juneteenth as a holiday is “a crucial and necessary effort to expand racial justice and equity in Michigan.” 

Sen. Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit, said the state holiday designation “elevates our awareness that we have a second Independence Day in American history.” 

The new law makes June 19 (or the following Monday if the date falls on a Sunday) an observed holiday for courts, banks and most public government functions. Local governments often follow the lead of the state when it comes to holidays, and some, including the city of Detroit, already offer Juneteenth as a paid city holiday

Prior to the legislation’s passage, Whitmer in 2022 issued a proclamation providing the additional paid holiday for Michigan’s 53,000 state workers

Going forward, the legislation makes Juneteenth “a state legal holiday which would be observed in the same manner and accorded the same recognition” as other holidays observed by the state, like New Year’s Day or the Fourth of July, according to a House Fiscal Agency analysis

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