President Joe Biden signed a law making Juneteenth, the day of the end of slavery in the United States, a federal holiday.
Biden held a signing ceremony at the White House Thursday afternoon, after a bill designating June 19 as a new federal holiday was passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate with bipartisan support crushing.
“Great nations are not ignoring their most painful times. They hug them, ”Biden said in remarks ahead of the signing.
“The great nations are not leaving,” he added. “We accept the mistakes we made, and by remembering those times, we begin to heal.”
June 17, the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was designated in 1983, will bring the total to 11. Non-essential government offices are closed and federal employees are granted paid days off on June 17. federal holidays, which are also often recognized by private employers.
Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June 19, commemorates the date in 1865 when Union troops announced freedom to slaves in Texas more than two months after the end of the American Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln had issued his Emancipation Proclamation, officially declaring slaves free, more than two years earlier.
The commemorations originated in Texas, but eventually spread to the states of the United States. The date was adopted by American companies following the murder of George floyd, a black man, by a Minneapolis cop last year.
“With this milestone, Congress is ensuring that one of the most important events in our history, especially for black Americans, has been officially recognized for 150 years and is enshrined in our history books and that it takes its place of honor in our nation, “Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday ahead of a vote in the lower house of Congress.
The Juneteenth bill was passed by the Democratic-controlled House with a vote of 415 to 14 on Wednesday night after being approved by the Senate using a procedure called unanimous consent, meaning that no senator is there. is opposed. It will become law when signed by the president.
The 14 members of the House who opposed the legislation were all Republicans, including Representatives Mo Brooks of Alabama, Chip Roy of Texas and Thomas Massie of Kentucky.
The legislation comes at a time when lawmakers are still arguing over the federal government police reform legislation first drafted shortly after Floyd’s murder in May 2020.
Biden had called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act before the first anniversary of Floyd’s death. But lawmakers missed the deadline due to a protracted disagreement over qualified immunity, a legal principle that protects police from being held accountable for actions they take on the job.
Tim Scott, the Republican senator from South Carolina, and Cory Booker, the Democratic senator from New Jersey – the only two black senators in their 100-member chamber – led the negotiations and continue to press for a deal to be reached. concluded.