Biden signs bill making Juneteenth national holiday to mark end of slavery
US President Joe Biden has signed a bill into law establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
Biden signed the bill in the East Room of the White House on Thursday in a ceremony that was attended by about 80 members of Congress, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, local elected officials, community leaders and activists.
“I have to say to you, I’ve only been president for several months, but I think this will go down, for me, as one of the greatest honors I will have as president.
“I regret that my grandchildren aren’t here, because this is a really, really, really important moment in our history. By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history — and celebrate progress and grapple with the distance we’ve come (and) the distance we have to travel,” Biden said during the signing ceremony.
The President specifically noted that Opal Lee, the activist who campaigned to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday, was in attendance.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas, in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Only a handful of states currently observe Juneteenth as a paid holiday.
Biden, speaking at the White House alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, repeated the sentiments he relayed when he commemorated the Tulsa race massacre earlier this year, that “great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments.”
“They embrace them. Great nations don’t walk away. We’ve come to terms with the mistakes we made and in remembering those moments, we begin to heal and grow stronger,” the President said.
The holiday is the first federal holiday established since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983 and becomes at least the eleventh federal holiday recognized by the US federal government.
The US Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday that most federal employees will observe the holiday on Friday since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year.