Biden signs into law bill establishing Juneteenth as federal holiday

Juneteenth celebrates June 19, 1865, when a Union Army general arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had ended and they were free.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law Thursday, officially making June 19 a federal holiday and giving national recognition to a day commemorating emancipation.

“Juneteenth marks both a long, hard night of slavery and subjugation and the promise of a brighter morning to come,” Biden said during a signing ceremony at the White House. “This is a day, in my view, of profound weight and profound power. A day in which we remember the moral stain, terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman and Black vice president, said that designating a federal holiday “makes an important statement.”

“These are days when we as a nation have decided to stop and take stock. And often to acknowledge our history,” Harris said, urging people to be clear-eyed about the realities of slavery and the long fight for freedom.

Image: President Joe Biden hands a pen to Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., after signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House on June 17, 2021.
President Joe Biden hands a pen to Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., after signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House on June 17, 2021.Evan Vucci / AP

Since June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, most federal employees will observe the holiday on Friday, June 18, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management tweeted.

The House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday, 415-14, to make Juneteenth a national federal holiday, a day after the Senate cleared the bill without debate. The only votes against the bill came from Republicans.

Juneteenth — also known as Emancipation Day, Black Independence Day and Jubilee Day — is the 11th federal holiday and the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983.

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery and commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had ended and they were free. Granger’s message came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Source: Biden signs into law bill establishing Juneteenth as federal holiday