Juneteenth — a day that commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers freed remaining slaves in Galveston, Texas over two years after Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation — has now been signed off on as a federal holiday by President Joe Biden.
The news of June 19 being officialized as Juneteenth National Independence Day was announced earlier today. As per CNN’s reporting, “The holiday is the first federal holiday established since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983 and becomes at least the eleventh federal holiday recognized by the US federal government.”
The president’s signature follows the legislation being passed by Congress yesterday, June 17. CNN additionally detailed that “the bill passed the House on Wednesday with a 415-14 vote after the Senate unanimously passed the legislation the day before.”
In a statement made before he signed off on the bill, Biden said that the action is “one of the greatest honors” he’ll have as president. He also spoke on the importance of Juneteenth being recognized as a holiday on a national level. Amidst the speech, he noted, “Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments. They don’t ignore those moments in the past. They embrace them. Great nations don’t walk away. We come to terms with the mistakes we made.”
“This is a day of profound wait and profound power,” he added. “A day which you’ll remember the moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take.”
Relatedly, Vice President Kamala Harris also signed off on the bill. Poignantly, her words shared a similar sentiment to that of Biden’s.
“When we establish a national holiday, it makes an important statement. National holidays are something important,” Harris highlighted before signing the legislation into law. “These are days when we as a nation have decided to stop and take stock, and often to acknowledge our history.”
“So, as we establish Juneteenth as our newest national holiday,” she emphasized, “let us be clear about what happened on June 19th, 1865, the day we call Juneteenth. Because, you see, that day was not the end of slavery in America.”
If you’re interested, read some ideas about how you can commemorate the holiday with your loved ones here.