LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says the city will observe June 19 -- also known as "Juneteenth" -- as a paid holiday starting next year. 

Juneteenth is an observance of June 19, 1865. That was the day Galveston, Texas, finally received news that the Civil War was over, and that Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery in 1863, nearly a year-and-a-half later. 

“It’s important for us to recognize that not every American attained freedom on July 4, 1776," Fischer said in a written statement. He called Juneteenth "an important moment in our nation’s history, and every American should commemorate this day."

Mayor Fischer noted, however, that not everyone gained freedom on Juneteenth. “In Kentucky, slavery didn’t officially end until ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 18, 1865,” he said, adding that, “The heartbreaking truth was that while they were legally free, most former slaves had no wealth, few resources and faced vicious and violent resistance to exercising their Constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

“And that’s still a heartbreaking challenge today,” he said. “While we’ve made progress, certainly, it’s not nearly enough.”

Fischer made the announcement during a Facebook panel discussion Friday morning celebrating Juneteenth with guests state Senator Gerald Neal, LMG Chief of Equity Kendall Boyd, longtime civil rights activist and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Award recipient Mattie Jones, Aukram Burton, Executive Director of the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, and Sydney Tucker, a member of the Mayor’s One Love Louisville Youth Implementation Team.

The organization No Justice No Peace Louisville hosted a celebration in Louisville Friday at the Big Four Bridge.

"Juneteenth to me is just a big celebration to me of African American independence…it's kind of like our 4th of July," one woman in the crowd told WDRB. 

People across the country celebrated Juneteenth Friday, including in Louisville where a celebration took place at the Big Four Bridge. 

On Thursday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed a proclamation declaring June 19 as National Juneteenth Freedom Day in Kentucky. The governor also said he would be requesting the state General Assembly to "make Juneteenth an official state holiday" next session.

“In recent months, we’ve faced troubling reminders that justice is not always blind,” said Gov. Beshear. “We’ve also seen the Black and African-American community suffer disproportionately from COVID-19. We have so much more to do to ensure that all men and women are treated equally, but today we can also commemorate how far we’ve come.”

Kentucky was a border state that played a key role in the Underground Railroad during the Civil War that some slaves were able to travel to freedom before President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

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