On Monday, the Wake County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to make Juneteenth one of 10 paid holidays for county employees starting next year. The county’s more than 4,000 employees will be encouraged to use the day to better understand slavery’s effect on the United States.

The decision comes at the heels of a national reckoning with America’s racist past and present. June 19 commemorates the anniversary of enslaved people in Texas learning they were free in 1865, nearly three years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. 

“Juneteenth is not only Black history,” Commissioner Jessica Holmes said in a press statement. “It is American history. This board is committed to addressing systemic and institutional racism and discrimination. Recognition of Juneteenth is one step of many that we plan to take to do our part, and I hope other counties and municipalities will follow our lead.”

The projected cost to the county is $544,428, based on the hourly salaries paid to employees in a pre-coronavirus world. Despite this, county officials claim the new holiday won’t require a change to next year’s budget.

Wake is the first county in North Carolina to declare Juneteenth an official holiday following weeks of Black Lives Matter protests. Earlier this month, the town of Hillsborough declared Juneteenth a paid holiday for its employees. Wake now joins the likes of counties in OregonVirginia, and more that have committed to formally commemorate Juneteenth.  

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