Biden makes Juneteenth a national holiday, giving federal employees Friday off


biden signs juneteenth into law President Joe Biden signs the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act in the East Room of the White House on Thursday.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

  • President Joe Biden on Thursday enacted a law making June 19 a national holiday.
  • Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States.
  • The House and the Senate had passed the legislation this week.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a bill into law to make June 19, known as Juneteenth, a national holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States.

Vice President Kamala Harris opened the signing with remarks celebrating the Black activists who've long campaigned to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

"National holidays are something important," Harris said. "These are days when we as a nation have decided to stop and take stock and often to acknowledge our history."

Biden said the holiday recognized "America's original sin" and the country's capacity to "make a better version of ourselves." He and the vice president both recognized Opal Lee, a 94-year-old Black activist and retired educator who'd campaigned to make Juneteenth a holiday and is known as the grandmother of Juneteenth.

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

Biden also mentioned his administration's major proposals to address the racial wealth gap and other forms of discrimination and to improve healthcare in Black communities.

The House on Wednesday voted 415-14 to pass the bipartisan legislation, called the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. All no votes came from Republicans. The bill had won unanimous support in the Senate on Tuesday.

The law created the US's 11th federally recognized holiday. The latest one, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, was established nearly 40 years ago.

-ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 17, 2021

Federal government employees will observe Juneteenth on Friday, the Office of Personnel Management announced on Thursday. Many private companies are expected to follow suit.

Juneteenth, often referred to as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, or Emancipation Day, celebrates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers traveled to Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced that the region's 250,0000 enslaved African Americans were emancipated, thus effectively abolishing slavery in the last Confederate territory.

The holiday has been celebrated since the late 1800s and had been recognized in 47 states and the District of Columbia for several years. But the push to make Juneteenth a national holiday gained momentum last year amid the nationwide anti-racism and social-justice protests in response to George Floyd's murder by a white Minneapolis police officer. Some private employers, including corporations like Nike and Target, made the day a paid holiday last year.

While the legislation was overwhelmingly bipartisan, some Republican lawmakers had expressed concern about the cost of adding a federal holiday to the calendar. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, suggested the government remove a federal holiday before adding Juneteenth. Johnson ended his blockade of the bill on Tuesday, and the Senate passed it unanimously.

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[Author: [email protected] (Oma Seddiq,Eliza Relman)]


Tags: Politics, News, Minneapolis, Republicans, Congress, Senate, Race, US, America, Holiday, Trends, Nike, Joe Biden, Racism, Democrats, United States, House, Wisconsin, Republican, Biden, District Of Columbia, Black Lives Matter, Kamala Harris, HARRIS, Jr Day, Office of Personnel Management, Sen Ron Johnson, Evan Vucci, East Room of the White House, Juneteenth, ABC News Politics, Galveston Bay Texas, George Floyd, Opal Lee, National Holiday, Oma Seddiq Eliza Relman, Juneteenth Johnson

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