President Joe Biden knelt down on one knee earlier this week to welcome the “grandmother” of Juneteenth to the White House.
In celebration of Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday, Biden got down on one knee to welcome the ninety-four-year-old activist who has been campaigning to make it a holiday for years.
Opal Lee, from Texas, had a smile on her face when she was greeted by the president on Thursday. The former educator joined Biden and Vice President, Kamala Harris during the signing of The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act which will make the long-celebrated day a federal holiday.
Lee is one of the many Americans that have been celebrating Juneteenth year by year to mark the end of slavery in the United States.
On Juneteenth in 1939, her family home was broken into and burned down by an angry, white mob. The traumatic incident happened when she was only twelve years old and from then on, she continued raising awareness on the issue.
In 2016, Lee walked 1,400 miles from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, DC in an effort to do so.
It might have been a long fight, but all the effort was worth it.
Biden signed off on the act, making it official.
“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,” the president said at the historic event.
“You are an incredible woman,” he said of Lee.
Biden also gave her the honor of taking the pen and signing the bill first.
After the event, Lee told reporters this: “I’ve got so many different feelings all gurgling up here, I don’t know what to call them all. I’m so delighted to know that, finally, we’ve got a Juneteenth bill passed.”
Juneteenth, made from the combination of the word June and nineteenth, celebrated the liberation of African-American slaves after the civil war in 1865.
Freedom came just 2 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that all enslaved people be set free, especially in the south.
Forty-nine states and Washington DC already recognized the day as a holiday, South Dakota was the only remaining one. On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives backed the legislation by 415-14, a day after it was unanimously approved by the Senate. With the signature of President Biden, it officially became become law.
Celebrations have already begun all around the country.
Happy Juneteenth, everyone!