RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has proclaimed June 19 as Juneteenth Day, making it an official state holiday as of Friday.

He says it will honor the oldest known commemoration of the abolition of slavery in the United States.

“As we celebrate Black heritage, liberation, freedom and the great progress we have made, we must continue to be aware that systemic racism still persists,” Governor Cooper says. “Although we’ve come a long way since 1865, there’s more work to do.”

Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 that the news of freedom reached some of the last enslaved men and women in the United States.

Despite over 150 years of progress since the abolition of slavery, Black communities still face economic, institutional and social barriers.

Governor Cooper previously created two task forces in June 2020 to address barriers that communities of color face.

The Andrea Harris Task Force addresses the social, economic and health disparities in communities of color.

The North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice works on developing solutions to ensure racial equity in the state’s criminal justice system.

On June 1, the North Carolina Department of Administration’s Office for Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) reopened applications for grant funds for certified HUBs and disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) firms impacted by COVID-19 through the North Carolina Small Business Grant Program (RETOOLNC).

According to a release, a program awards up to $25,000 to eligible certified small, underutilized businesses to help with pandemic recovery efforts.

Governor Cooper’s office reports since the RETOOLNC program started in 2020, it has distributed over $21 million to HUBs and DBEs across the state.

Click here to read the proclamation.