Juneteenth Becomes A Federal Holiday After Bill Signed By President Biden
Juneteenth is now the 11th federal holiday.
June 17, 2021 at 8:13 pm
"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, according to NBC News. "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 added that "these are days when we as a nation have decided to stop and take stock. And often to acknowledge our history."The signature comes as the House of Representatives passed legislation 415-14 one day after the Senate unanimously voted to observe Juneteenth as a federal holiday, as Blavity previously reported.
“With this step Congress is ensuring that one of the most momentous events in our history, particularly Black Americans, for 150 years now is officially recognized and it is enshrined in our history books and it takes it place of honor in our nation,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday on the House floor before the vote, Bloomberg reported.
Despite a unanimous vote in the Senate across party lines, the 14 votes against the bill in the House were all from Republican representatives, with some arguing the name would get mistaken for July 4 Independence Day.
Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Montana) criticized the bill for being a divisive tactic co-opted by “the left.”
“Let’s call an ace an ace,” he said, according to The Hill. “This is an effort by the left to create a day out of whole cloth to celebrate identity politics as part of its larger efforts to make ‘critical race theory’ the reigning ideology of our country.”
“Since I believe in treating everyone equally, regardless of race, and that we should be focused on what unites us rather than our differences, I will vote 'no,'” he continued in his remarks.
In addition to receiving Friday, June 18 off, federal employees will now be granted a paid day off annually to celebrate and commemorate June 19, 1865, on either the Friday or Monday closest to the date.
Juneteenth National Independence Day will also become the 11th legal public holiday, and the first new one since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was enacted in 1983 by then-President Ronald Reagan.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), one of the lead Republican sponsors of the bill in the Senate, said that recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday is a “powerful” act that is long overdue.
“There’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come,” he said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “And I just think the reaction of members of Congress—at least speaking for myself—is we need this. We need this gesture of racial reconciliation.”
Some states across the country had previously observed Juneteenth. The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that Hawaii became the 49th state to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. South Dakota is the only state that does not currently observe the holiday on a local level.