Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when news that slavery had been abolished reached Galveston, Texas.

WOODLAND PARK, N.J. – Gov. Phil Murphy officially declared Juneteenth a state holiday during a live announcement on his Instagram account Thursday evening.

The bill will recognize the third Friday in June as a state and public holiday, and was initially approved by state lawmakers in July.

Murphy signed the bill into law after a 15-minute conversation with R&B star and Maplewood, N.J. native SZA about race relations in New Jersey .

During the livestream, Murphy noted that several states acknowledge Juneteenth but few have made it a state holiday.

Juneteenth’s origins stretch back to 1865, when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas in the South were told by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger that Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier. Texas was the last Confederate state to have the proclamation announced.

This bill, Murphy said, is a way to “commemorate that day in our nation’s history.”

What to know about Juneteenth: The holiday marking Emancipation Proclamation takes on extra importance in 2020

“The stain of racism lives on,” Murphy said. “We are still digging out of that legacy and my guess is that we will be for a long time.”

He later added: “I think words matter — we all believe that — but actions matter even more.”

Although Juneteenth marks the day Texas was informed of the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing enslaved people there as it had in other secessionist states, it did not apply to Union states where there were enslavers that had not seceded in the Civil War. The Thirteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1865, freed enslaved people in the whole United States.. 

Contributing: N’Dea Yancey-Bragg, Joshua Bote, USA TODAY. Follow Katie Sobko on Twitter: @katesobko.

Read or Share this story: