US President Joe Biden on Thursday signed the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,” officially establishing Juneteenth – June 19 as a federal holiday in the US.
“I regret that my grandchildren aren’t here, because this is a really, really, really important moment in our history,” Biden said prior to signing the bill into law.
And with the stroke of many pens, President Biden signs into law the #Juneteenth bill — making the day a federal holiday.
The Senate passed the bill unanimously, only 14 House Republicans, many representing states that were part of the slave-holding Confederacy, opposed it.
The June 19 holiday, aptly dubbed ‘Juneteenth National Independence Day,’ comes as the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day – January 17 – was established in 1983.
The new federal holiday will commemorate the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans dating back to 1865 when a Union general informed a group of enslaved people in Texas that they had been made free two years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War.
“Juneteenth marks both a long hard night of slavery subjugation and a promise of a brighter morning to come,” Biden said.
“The day is a reminder of the “terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take.”
European colonists first forcibly brought enslaved Africans by ship to the British colonies that became the United States in the 1600s; millions of people were legally owned there until the 13th Amendment passed in 1865.
“Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments…they embrace them,” Biden told a room filled with about 80 members of Congress, community leaders and activists including 94-year-old Opal Lee, who campaigned for decades to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.