Congress sends a bill to President Biden, which turns June 19 into a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
The U.S. Congress passed a bill Wednesday Junetenth, or June 19, a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the country.
By an overwhelming vote, the U.S. House followed the Senate in passing the bill, sending it to President Joe Biden to sign. The Senate had passed the bill on June 15 by unanimous consent agreement that streamlined the process for considering legislation.
“The passage of the 19th National Independence Day Act is a long-standing recognition for generations of pain and suffering in our black communities,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat.
Juneteenth commemorates when the last enslaved American slaves learned that they were free after the U.S. Civil War between Confederate states that had slaves in the south and Union-free states in the north.
Confederate soldiers surrendered in April 1865, but the news did not reach the last enslaved black people until June 19, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to Galveston, Texas. It was more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the proclamation of emancipation to free American slaves in 1862.
Known as the “Second Independence Day” of the United States, Juneteenth is an important holiday for African Americans and is celebrated in black communities in the United States with prayer breakfasts, civic events, family reunions, barbecues, and parties.
“Making Juneteenth a federal vacation is a big step forward in acknowledging the mistakes of the past,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday.
“But we must continue to work to ensure equality of justice and fulfill the promise of the proclamation of emancipation and our Constitution.”
Juneteenth has taken on added importance amid recent national calculations with the US history of racism and extended nationwide protests after the death of George Floyd last year, a black man who drowned under the knee of a white police officer.
“We have so much work to do to rid this country of systemic racism, discrimination and hatred,” said Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence.
“Even today we live the blatant racism and slavery that denied us education, denied us the opportunity for economic development, empowerment for ourselves, denied us the right to have a job and property of our own “It’s still a problem in the United States,” Lawrence said.
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson had opposed Congress before a bill to celebrate Juneteenth as a federal holiday because of the cost and lack of debate, he said.
Johnson noted that he has supported resolutions recognizing the importance of Juneteenth, but was concerned that the new holidays would give federal employees another day off at a cost of about $ 600 a year.
“While it still seems strange that taxpayers are required to provide free time for federal employees to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to debate the matter further. So I have no intention to oppose me, “Johnson said in a statement ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
Almost every state in the United States already recognizes Juneteenth as a holiday or has an official celebration of the day, and most states celebrate celebrations. Juneteenth is a paid vacation for state employees in Texas, New York, Virginia and Washington, DC.
According to the legislation, the federal holiday would be known as National Independence Day on the 19th.