With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation designating the third Friday in June of each year, Juneteenth Day.

The legislation to make Juneteenth a holiday was introduced by State Assemblymember Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Jamel Holley and Benjie Wimberly. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas to inform enslaved people of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and their freedom.

“It gives me great pride to celebrate emancipation and New Jersey’s great diversity by designating Juneteenth as an official State holiday,” said Murphy. “Commemorating this date is just one component of our collective approach to end a generational cycle of pain and injustice that has gone on for far too long.”

Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver said designating Juneteenth as a state holiday is a step to heal racial wounds and right societal wrongs.

“Our fight for civil rights and freedom from discrimination and oppression continues today,” she said. “Now, Juneteenth will forever be observed and celebrated so that we can collectively reflect upon the indelible mark that slavery has left on our country as we fight for meaningful reforms.”

In a joint-statement, Holley, Wimberly and Reynolds-Jackson said making Juneteenth a holiday in the Garden State comes at a pivotal moment when the nation is dealing with racial reckoning.

“A visual illustration of the impact of centuries of systematic and institutionalized racism has our country reeling over the question, ‘Why?’ Why does this continue to persist in our communities today? Juneteenth was a defining moment in American history, claiming the beginning of African American independence in this country,” the lawmakers said.