Chicago's skyline is lighting up red with a Juneteenth flag flying high this weekend in honor of the new national holiday, celebrating when the Emancipation Proclamation officially took effect across the nation, freeing all Black people from slavery.
"History will be made in Chicago June 17-19, 2021 as the city skyline will illuminate Red in honor of Juneteenth following a year marked by racial justice," clerk Iris Y. Martinez said in a statement.
Martinez's office said the display would help make Cook County "the country’s largest populated county in the US to celebrate Black Americans’ freedom from slavery."
The flag honoring Juneteenth will fly above the Illinois Capitol Building, as well as in Chicago, for the first time in state history this weekend.
All other flags statewide will be ordered to fly at half staff Saturday, Pritzker added, to honor the freedom won for enslaved Black people more than 150 years ago.
"These advancements are yet another essential step in our journey toward justice," Pritzker said.
The holiday, long celebrated by African Americans in the U.S., recognizes June 19, 1865, when many enslaved people in Texas learned they had been freed. Although President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier, it could not be enforced in many places until after the end of the Civil War in April 1865. Two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered, Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.
While Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday, the vast majority of states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or have an official observance of the day. Juneteenth is a paid holiday for state employees in Texas, New York, Virginia, Washington and now Illinois, and hundreds of companies give workers a day off for Juneteenth.
After passing the House and Senate earlier this week, President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday a bill designating Juneteenth as the 12th federal holiday, the first new federal holiday since 1983.
“This is a day of profound weight and profound power, a day in which we remember the moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take,” Biden said.