Local communities celebrate after historic legislation makes Juneteenth a federal holiday

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(Photo: Courtesy MGN)

(WFXR) — On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed a law making Juneteenth — or June 19 — a federal holiday honoring the end of slavery.

The Senate passed passed a bill to make Juneteenth the 12th federal holiday on Tuesday, June 15 under a unanimous consent agreement. The House voted 415-14 on Wednesday, June 16 in favor of the bill. Then, on Thursday, June 17, Biden signed the first new national holiday into law since Martin Luther King Day was created in 1983.

“I hope this is the beginning of a change in the way we deal with one another,” Biden said.

The day commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that enslaved people in Texas learned they were free. This was two months after the Confederacy had surrendered and more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the southern states.

In the African American community, Juneteenth goes by many names, such as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, or the country’s second Independence Day.

Historians say celebrations for Juneteenth slowed down in the 1940s, but there was a resurgence throughout the country during the Civil Rights Movement. Then, last year, it became an important talking point, especially during the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement.

Juneteenth even became a statewide holiday in Virginia in 2020.

WFXR News’ Hazelmarie Anderson spoke with Dr. Wornie Reed, a professor of Africana Studies and Sociology at Virginia Tech. He says, while this is a good first step, he wants more action to be taken.

“It would be much better if these efforts to disenfranchised African Americans across the country were addressed, instead of something symbolic like a national holiday like Juneteenth,” Dr. Reed said. “I’m not one for advocating for a holidays, I’m one for advocating for civil and political rights.”

Instead of Juneteenth marking the holiday, Dr. Reed says he would have preferred it to be the day that Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Meanwhile, numerous places in southwest and central Virginia are holding Juneteenth events — or at least altering their hours — in honor of the holiday:

  • Appomattox County’s administration offices will be closed to the public for the holiday on Friday, June 18.
  • The Town of Bedford’s offices will be closed on Friday, June 18 and the landfill will be closed on Saturday, June 19 for Juneteenth. In addition, the refuse collection scheduled for Friday will be collected on Monday, June 21.
  • In Blacksburg, all of the town’s administrative offices will be closed on Friday, June 18 for Juneteenth, but the Community and Aquatic Centers, Blacksburg Transit, and refuse and recycling pickup will continue regular hours and operations.
    In addition, Virginia Tech stands in solidarity with the Commonwealth by officially observing Juneteenth as a holiday for the second time. The university will be closed on Friday as a paid holiday for faculty and staff.
  • Buena Vista city offices will be closed on Friday, June 18 in observance of Juneteenth.
  • Charlotte County’s government offices will be closed on Friday, June 18 for the holiday.
  • In Christiansburg, the Town Hall and administrative offices will be closed on Friday, June 18, but the Aquatic and Rec Centers will operate on regular hours.
  • The Town of Clifton Forge plans will close its offices on Friday, June 18, but you can still place any payments in the dropbox out front.
  • The City of Danville‘s government offices, Municipal Building, courthouse, and public library will be closed on Friday, June 18 and then reopen on Monday, June 21.
    However, Danville Transit will continue operations on Friday and Saturday, June 19, and household trash and yard waste will be collected on Friday using the regular schedule.
  • Because of Juneteenth, Lexington’s city offices will be closed on Friday, June 18 and not reopen until Monday, June 21.
  • All Lynchburg municipal offices will be closed on Friday, June 18 in honor of Juneteenth, but the Concord Turnpike Convenience Center will be open at its normal schedule, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
  • The City of Martinsville Municipal Building, administrative offices, and Constitutional offices will be closed on Friday, June 18. There will also not be any bulk or brush pickup on Friday. However, employees in essential operational positions will continue on their normal schedule.
  • Pearisburg’s town offices will be closed in honor Juneteenth, but there will be a dropbox outside Town Hall for your convenience.
  • All Pittsylvania County offices and Departments will be closed on Friday, June 18.
  • In Pulaski, all town offices will be closed in observance of the holiday on Friday, June 18, including the Public Service Authority billing office and the three convenience centers. Garbage collection, though, remains on its normal schedule.
  • Roanoke City offices will be closed on Friday, June 18 for Juneteenth, but the newly-renovated Gainsboro Branch Library will hold a walking tour through the Gainsboro neighborhood — led by local historian Jordan Bell — starting at 10 a.m. on Friday.
  • In Roanoke County, there will be no trash collection and all administrative offices and libraries will be closed on Friday, June 18.
    However, Brambleton, Camp Roanoke, Green Ridge, Splash Valley, and Explore Park are operating with programs (summer camp), and recreation facilities are open to the public regular business hours on Friday. In addition, Green Ridge, Splash Valley, Explore Park, and the libraries are open for regular business hours on Saturday, June 19.
    You can even swing by Roanoke County Public Library for your own copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, history of Juneteenth, giveaways, and more on Saturday.
  • All Salem city offices are closed Friday, June 18 in observance of Juneteenth.
  • The Town of Vinton is recognizing Juneteenth as an official holiday for the first time this year, so town offices will be closed on Friday, June 18.

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