After a week of campaigns, President Biden has finally signed a historic bill into law making Juneteenth a federal holiday – celebrating the abolition of slavery.
Juneteenth is the oldest holiday in America commemorating the end of slavery.
The name comes from June 19th, 1865. On this day, Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas to announce to the slaves that the Civil War had been won and they were no longer enslaved.
In actuality, slaves had been emancipated 3 years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln, but as Texas was the most remote of the slave states, it was the last to receive the news.
The first Juneteenth was celebrated in Texas one year later, and the holiday began spreading across states.
Since 2020, there’s been a renewed interest in making Juneteenth a federal holiday – and the day was marked as a state holiday or observance in the majority of states.
But this week, President Biden has made a historical move.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted unanimously to pass legislation making Juneteenth a national holiday…
And on Thursday, Biden signed the bill into law – making Juneteenth the first federal holiday to be newly established since Martin Luther King day in 1983.
June 19th is now officially established as Juneteenth National Independence Day.
“Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments,” Biden said, “Great nations don’t walk away. We come to terms with the mistakes we made. And remembering those moments, we begin to heal and grow stronger.”
“I’ve only been president for several months, but I think this will go down for me as one of the greatest honors I will have had as president.”
Vice President Kamala Harris agreed, saying, “We are gathered here in a house built by enslaved people. We are footsteps away from where President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. And we are here to witness President Joe Biden establish Juneteenth as a national holiday. We have come far, and we have far to go, but today is a day of celebration.”
This year’s June 19th falls on a Saturday, meaning federal workers will get the Friday off of work instead…
And although this is a historic moment for Black Americans, as Harris says, there’s still so much more progress to be made in the future.