When Juneteenth became a federal holiday last year, South Carolina organizer Jamal Bradley was excited for it to finally get the recognition it deserves.
But his enthusiasm was quickly dashed when he learned state leaders decided not to follow suit in observing the holiday.
"It just lets me know there's still work left to do in South Carolina," said Bradley, who started a petition for Juneteenth to become a state holiday.
Also known as "Emancipation Day" or "Freedom Day," Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas and gave word to enslaved African Americans that they were free
more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. The holiday has been celebrated by many Black families for generations, but began to gain wider attention in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Despite the federal recognition, some Black organizers are beginning to see that local support can be a harder lift.
While every state has at some point recognized Juneteenth as a day of observance, 26 states have yet to adopt Juneteenth as a paid public holiday, including seven former Confederate states, according to the Pew Research Center.
Reasons for the delay vary from state to state. In some places, it's due to lagging bureaucracy. In other places, it's due to disputes over when to actually celebrate the holiday.
Likewise, there's a range of implications. On a practical level, the lack of a state holiday means local employees may not be able to take time off to observe Juneteenth. It may also mean state government buildings will remain open on the holiday.
But to many Black activists, the extent to which Juneteenth is embraced by state governments speaks volumes about their progress toward racial justice.