SALT LAKE CITY — On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and declared the Civil War was over and those enslaved were now freed.
The day has come to be known as Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, a day to celebrate when the final black slaves in America were freed.
With civil unrest occurring throughout the country due to protests over police brutality against the black community, more and more focus has been put on this year’s commemoration in Utah than in year's past.
On Wednesday, the Utah Jazz announced that they, along with the Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment company, will observe the day as an official company holiday.
“In the midst of the national conversation and calls for racial justice, our franchise has made the decision to pause, work to further educate ourselves, and reflect on our country’s race relations both past and present by observing Juneteenth,” said Utah Jazz President Jim Olson.
Olson said it’ll be a chance for the organization to learn about freedom and the fight for all equality. Historically, Juneteenth has not been celebrated by the state or organizations in it. Utah didn’t officially recognize the day as a holiday or a day of observance until 2016, leaving many in the state unaware of its historical significance.
June 19, 1865, came almost 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed the slaves, and months after the Civil War had officially come to an end on April 9, 1865, when Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate troops to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
Before Gen. Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston stating all previously enslaved people in Texas were free, the Emancipation Proclamation had been inconsistently enforced in the remote state.
On Friday, the Jazz employees will have access to watch “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” the new movie chronicling the Georgia congressman’s 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health care reform and immigration.
“This is an important milestone in our history and another step for us to learn more about freedom for all and the fight for equality, and ideally be part of helping to create meaningful change,” Olson said.