Last Thursday, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. This officially makes June 19 a federal holiday. It also gives national recognition to a day commemorating emancipation.
In a White House signing ceremony replete with stars and activists, President Joe Biden signed Juneteenth into law. “Juneteenth marks both a long, hard night of slavery and subjugation and the promise of a brighter morning to come.
This is a day, in my view, of profound weight and profound power, a day in which we remember the moral stain, a terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take,” he said.
Vice President Kamala Harris, the first female and Black vice president, also gave a statement. She said that designating a federal holiday is an important statement to make.
“These are days when we as a nation have decided to stop and take stock, and often to acknowledge our history,” Harris said. She then urged Americans to learn about the realities of slavery and the long fight for freedom.
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Because June 19 is a Saturday this year, most federal employees will observe the holiday on June 18, the US Office of Personnel Management tweeted. This led to a mad scramble among government offices to issue notices that offices will remain closed for the day.
In a mostly bipartisan vote, the US House of Representatives voted 415-14 to make June 19 a federal holiday. All 14 dissenting votes came from Republican lawmakers. Earlier, the Senate approved the bill unanimously without debate.
Also known as Emancipation Day, Black Independence Day, and Jubilee Day, Juneteenth becomes the 11th federal holiday and the first new one since Martin Luther King Jr Day became law in 1983.
This particular holiday commemorates the June 19, 1865 proclamation of General Order Number 3, which informed enslaved African Americans of their freedom.
This happened two years after the Civil War ended and President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. A few months later, Congress ratified the 13th Amendment which formally abolishes slavery in the United States.
“Think about that: For more than two years, the enslaved people of Texas were kept in servitude. For more than two years, they were intentionally kept from their freedom,” Harris said.
Prior to its proclamation as a federal holiday, 47 states and the District of Columbia already celebrated Juneteenth as a state holiday.
Texas started the trend in 1980 by declaring June 19 as a state holiday. While Juneteenth means that 2 million federal government employees will automatically observe it, many states and private employers will still need to finalize their arrangements.
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Watch the Washington Post’s full coverage of the White House signing of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law:
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