A Juneteenth flag waves in Daley Plaza. Credit: Mayor's Office

CHICAGO — Juneteenth is now officially a state holiday in Illinois.

Gov. JB Pritzker made the announcement Wednesday morning and signed into law a declaration for the holiday. The state will lower flags to half-staff on Juneteenth — which falls on Saturday this year — and a flag for the holiday will fly in the state capital.

The holiday will be a paid day off for state workers and public education professionals, but only when June 19 falls on a weekday. That means the first paid holiday for Juneteenth will be in 2023.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day enslaved Black Americans were freed in Galveston, Texas. The day has been celebrated for many years among people of color, but only recently has it gotten national recognition, and few states have recognized the holiday as a paid day off.

Last year, City Council members pushed for Chicago to make Juneteenth a city holiday. At the time, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said it would be too expensive, as it was estimated the holiday would cost the city $100 million.

But earlier this week, Lightfoot said Juneteenth should be an official city holiday, paving the way for the change. The city also raised a Juneteenth flag in Daley Plaza.

Also this week, the federal Senate unanimously passed a resolution making the day a federal holiday, as well. That legislation would need to go through the House and be signed by President Joe Biden to officially make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

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