West Virginia Day is celebrated on 20 June to mark the anniversary of West Virginia being admitted into the United States in 1863. West Virginia Day is a holiday of pride for many West Virginians, indicative of the state’s independence and its moral stand against slavery.
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Once the American Civil War was underway, the Virginia General Assembly voted to secede from the United States and join the Confederacy of the South. However, Virginian residents who lived west of the Allegheny Mountains felt increasingly disenfranchised by the elite political leaders who were based in the state capital of Richmond.
The majority of delegates from the northwestern counties of Virginia voted against secession, but they were outnumbered by delegates from the rest of the state, and Virginia officially ratified its secession from the Union on May 23, 1861.
Due to the escalation of the Civil War, it was a time of political turmoil throughout the state. However, after two conventions, known as the Wheeling Conventions, the northwestern state legislature finally managed to approve of the formation of a new state on May 13, 1862. Consisting of counties in the northwestern portion of Virginia, this new state was originally named Kanawha, but one month later was renamed West Virginia.
On December 31, 1862, the state legislature of West Virginia region officially applied to be readmitted into the Union. In an enabling act, President Abraham Lincoln approved of the readmission under the condition that the state adopted a Constitutional provision abolishing slavery.
The condition was accepted by the legislature, and the revised Constitution was adopted on March 26, 1863. Finally on April 20, 1863, President Lincoln issued a proclamation that admitted West Virginia into the Union after a 60-day period. The end of that 60-day period was June 20, 1863, which is the day that West Virginia became an official member of the United States.
West Virginia Day was unofficially celebrated by residents every June 20th for over six decades. However, the state legislature finally made it into an official state holiday in 1927, and proud West Virginians have celebrated the day annually ever since.