Pharrell joined Gov. Northam for his press conference in Richmond (the former capital of the Confederacy and Virginia's current state capital), where he explained why the state will legally acknowledge the holiday.
"[Juneteenth] matters now because it says to the black community, this is not just your history, this is everyone’s shared history, and we recognize it together," Gov. Northam said per the Daily Press. "This symbol, this holiday, is one step toward reconciliation."
Juneteenth is a holiday that has been recognized within the Black community for over 150 years. It's widely believed that the Emancipation Proclamation—which went into effect on Jan. 1, 1863—ended slavery. But, just because President Lincoln signed the law didn't mean Southern slave owners abided by the legislation.
Late in the Civil War, Confederate slave owners retreated to Texas with their slaves as the Union Army started to gain control of Southeastern states. Most of these owners settled in Southern Texas near Galveston. Once Robert E. Lee surrendered in April 1865, federal soldiers began to march through the South enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation. It took until June 18, 1865, for these units to make it through the South and to Galveston. There, Union General Gordon Granger and his troops found the stronghold of slave-owning communities. After taking control of the area, Gen. Granger read "General Order No. 3" on June 19, 1865. This freed all the slaves in Texas, thus ending slavery in the Confederate States.
Although it took until December 1865 for slaves in slaving holding states that stayed in the Union to be freed, African Americans recognize June 19 as the day that ended slavery. Celebrations of this fact started a year after the event. Over time, it morphed into the holiday known now as Juneteenth or Emancipation Day.
With the current state of America, companies—like Nike and others—as well as political figures are starting to recognize Juneteenth in an effort to show their solidarity with Black citizens. Per ABC, 46 states and the District of Columbia now celebrate Juneteenth as a holiday with Virginia being the latest.
In observation of this day, state workers will get a paid day off. Northam is also backing legislation that will allow the holiday to extend to schools, courts, and local governments. This proposal will hit the table when state lawmakers reconvene for a special budget session in August.