President Biden signed legislation creating Juneteenth a holiday during a ceremony at the White House.
President Biden signed a bill yesterday establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. While the legislation was passed by the House and Senate with unusual speed this week and overwhelming support from both chambers of congress, President Biden argued there’s much more work to do and said the “sacred right to vote is under attack” in many states. Biden added, “Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments.” Biden said “acknowledging those moments helps a nation heal and grow stronger.” President Biden also stated in his speech right before signing the bill that slavery took a terrible toll and was America’s “original sin.”
Juneteenth has long marked the commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S especially for Black people in the south. June 19, 1865, is when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas. Although, technically they were legally free 2 years prior but still had not been afforded such rights and liberties. The Juneteenth National Independence Day is the first new federal holiday that has been established since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
Texas Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee, introduced the Juneteenth National Independence Act, on February 25, 2021 as H.R. 1320 and has been fighting diligently for decades to have this day recognized federally. The Texas 18th Congressional District leader shared on her Twitter two days before the signing. “We celebrate the first passage of the bill in the Senate! This has been a long journey with the work of our fellow Texans, the late Representative Al Edwards and Opal Lee. We’re working very hard to get his bill signed by the President in the near days in order to have a historic celebration of Juneteenth this June 19, 2021. It has been a long journey! Juneteenth equals freedom and freedom is what America is about!“
Vice President Kamala Harris shared that Juneteenth is a day of pride and a day of action in the ongoing struggle to achieve racial equality in the U.S. Our first Black woman ever elected to VP also noted enslaved people helped build the White House. Harris said, “We have come far and we have far to go.”