Loudoun County supervisors voted to add a Juneteenth holiday to the calendar for public employees, and to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
June 19th, or Juneteenth, marks the day in 1865 when, just after the end of the Civil War, Union Army General Gordon Granger announced the abolition of slavery in Texas, the last Confederate state where the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced. Slavery across the U.S. would be completely abolished later that year with the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In September 2020, after delivering to the U.S. Congress a petition with 1.54 million signatures supporting the establishment of Juneteenth as a national holiday, 93-year-old activist Opal Lee visited with Loudoun County leaders. Best known as Ms. Opal and hailing from Fort Worth, TX, she launched a walking campaign in 2016 to promote awareness of the effort to make June 19 an annual national day of observance.
It is part of a larger conversation across the county and the country about which occasions—and which historical figures—should be honored with public holidays.
The Loudoun County School Board voted to do away with Columbus Day in September 2020, also changing it to Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the school holiday calendar. In December the School Board would go on to vote to add Election Day and three religious holidays, Yom Kippur, Diwali, and Eid-al-Fitr to its holiday calendar.
Supervisors last year also added a paid Election Day holiday, aligning with the state’s calendar for its public employees. At the state level, that replaced Lee-Jackson Day. Loudoun County eliminated Lee-Jackson day long before the state, replacing it in 2010 with a floating holiday for county employees.
In 2020, Gov. Ralph Northam announced the state would also celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than Columbus Day.
County employees now have 14.5 paid holidays in a year, including New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and the day after, a half day on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Election Day, Juneteenth, Indigenous People’s Day and a floating holiday.
Supervisors approved the change with an 8-0-1 vote on Jan. 19, with Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) absent.
The projected cost of the county government’s holiday pay is approximately $450,000. In 2021, June 19 will fall on a Saturday.