Dancing breaks out during a Juneteenth rally and protest in Deering Oaks Park in Portland on June 19, 2020. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Juneteenth, observed annually on June 19, will be recognized as a state holiday.

Gov. Janet Mills signed the holiday into law on Thursday, and will allow nonessential state offices to close on that day.

This year will mark the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth. The holiday celebrates the liberation of the last black men, women and children held in slavery in the United States.

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, where black men and women finally learned slavery had been abolished — two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the emanicipation proclamation.

The holiday, also known as Emancipation Day, was officially celebrated the following year in 1866 in Texas. It soon spread to other states, and is nationally celebrated today.

Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley and staying active in the Maine outdoors.