Both Chambers Of Congress Have Now Passed A Bill To Declare Juneteenth A Federal Holiday
Juneteenth will become the 11th annual federal holiday if signed into law by Joe Biden.
June 17, 2021 at 1:12 pm
Federal employees will now be granted a paid day off annually to celebrate and commemorate June 19, 1865.
In 1865, on the day now recognized as "Juneteenth National Independence Day," the last enslaved people were informed they were free and that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, 2 ½ years earlier.
Texas was the last Confederate state where the federal Army re-established control, ultimately delaying the message to enslaved Black Americans they had been free for years, USA Today reported.
On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) announced that the House would vote on the bill.
“I look forward to bringing this bill to the Floor, and urge bipartisan support,” Hoyer said in a tweet.
Juneteenth is now the 11th annual national holiday. The last holiday that was added to the federal calendar was Martin Luther King Jr. Day which is honored on the third Monday of January. The bill making MLK Day a holiday was passed in 1983, but took 15 years to enact, Bloomberg reported.
Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) originally introduced the Juneteenth bill in June 2020 following the high-profile killings of unarmed Black Americans George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. However, at that time, the bill didn’t gain any traction in the Senate. This year, during Black History Month, Senators Markey, Tina Smith (D-Minnesota), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), John Cornyn, (R-Texas) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) reintroduced the bill.
The measure will now be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk ahead of the Juneteenth holiday for it to be signed into law.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement that creating the Juneteenth holiday “is a major step forward in recognizing the wrongs of the past, but we must continue to work to ensure equal justice and fulfill the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our Constitution.”
Just three days before Juneteenth last year, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and music producer Pharrell Williams emphasized that celebrating Juneteenth is a major event for the Black community. Both agreed that Virginia would join Texas in declaring Juneteenth a statewide holiday, as Blavity previously reported.Original (June 15, 2021): The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill which would make Juneteenth a national holiday this week.
On Tuesday, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) made a motion to pass the bill and it progressed without any objection from Republicans, HuffPost reports. The bill now has to pass the House.
If the measure is pushed forward by the House, Juneteenth would become the 11th annual federal holiday.
Following last summer’s mass protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced the bill, rallying the support of 18 co-sponsors this year.
“It has been a state holiday in Texas for more than 40 years. Now more than ever, we need to learn from our history and continue to form a more perfect union,” Cornyn tweeted.
Last year, just three days before Juneteenth, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and renowned music producer Pharrell announced at a press conference that their state would be joining Texas as the second state to declare the day a statewide holiday, Blavity previously reported.
Happy that my bill to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday just passed the Senate. It has been a state holiday in Texas for more than 40 years. Now more than ever, we need to learn from our history and continue to form a more perfect union. https://t.co/EpcJCUmfmn— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) June 15, 2021
Pharrell said he reached out to the governor and they connected on the gravity of the opportunity and its relevance to Black people.
“So I called [Northam] and I just said, ‘Man, I just feel like this is important for not only your own legacy but for the legacy of Virginia,'" he said. “Because this is for not only me, but this is for my ancestors that absolutely came through on the hull of a ship in Virginia 400 years ago, over 401 years ago. So for me, this was incredibly symbolic and it’s necessary."
Juneteenth marks the abolition of slavery in America and is believed to be the oldest celebrated Black holiday in the country. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, establishing that enslaved people in Confederate states “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” However, the edict wasn’t carried out in practice immediately.
Although Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered in Virginia in 1865, it wasn’t until northern military officials arrived in Texas months later and read the General Orders No. 3 that it was widely understood that “all slaves are free.”
A year later, freed people living in Texas organized the first of what became the annual celebration of "Jubilee Day" on June 19.