Pritzker orders flags to be at half-staff for Juneteenth
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he is ordering flags be lowered in Illinois to commemorate Juneteenth on June 19.
Juneteenth is the oldest-known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing enslaved people effective January 1863, but it wasn't until two years later, on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, with news the Civil War had ended and slaves were now free.
The celebration of June 19 was called Juneteenth and grew as descendants of enslaved people treated it as their independence day in Texas. It then spread to other states and has been celebrated every year since.
In a statement, a spokesman for Gov. Pritzker said, "The governor is committed to honoring both the celebration of Juneteenth and paying respect to those who lost their lives, by lowering the flag in honor in them. The governor recognizes that, now more than ever, Juneteenth is a day that reminds us that the fight for justice and equity across the nation is not over, and while we will celebrate the end of slavery, we must also recognize the systemic racism that has time and time again reared its ugly head and honor the memory of those who have died simply because of the color of their skin. "
Earlier Tuesday, state Rep. LaShawn Ford, Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, and state Sen. Kimberly Lightford were among those who called on the governor to order the flags lowered "in recognition of those lost to hate and racism."