President Joe Biden is set to sign legislation making Juneteenth, the day marking the end of slavery in the United States, a federal holiday.
Biden will hold a signing ceremony at the White House on Thursday afternoon, after the passage of a bill establishing June 19 as a new federal holiday for the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Juneteenth will be the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was set in 1983, bringing the total to 11. Non-essential government offices are closed and federal employees are given paid vacation days in Federal holidays, which are often recognized by employers in the private sector.
“With this move, Congress ensures that one of the most significant events in our history, especially black Americans, for the 150 years now, has been officially recognized and enshrined in our history books and holds a place of honor in our nation,” Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, said Wednesday before Voting in the House of Representatives.
Juneteenth, a mobile word of June 19, commemorates the year 1865 when Union forces delivered news of freedom to slaves in Texas more than two months after the end of the American Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, officially declaring slaves free, more than two years ago.
The festivities originated in Texas but eventually spread to states across the United States. History was adopted by corporate America in the wake of the murder George Floyd, a black man, by a Minneapolis police officer last year.
The Juneteenth bill passed the Democratic-controlled House by 415 votes to 14 late Wednesday after the Senate approved it using a procedure called unanimous approval, meaning no senators objected. It will become law when the president signs it.
The 14 House members who opposed the legislation were Republicans, including Representatives Mo Brooks of Alabama, Chip Roy of Texas and Thomas Massey of Kentucky.
The legislation comes at a time when lawmakers are still arguing over federalism Police reform The legislation was first drafted shortly after Floyd’s murder in May 2020.
Biden called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Police Justice Act ahead of the first anniversary of Floyd’s death. But lawmakers did not meet the deadline due to a prolonged dispute over eligible immunity, a legal principle that protects police from being held liable for actions they take in the course of their job.
Tim Scott, the Republican senator from South Carolina, and Cory Booker, the Democratic senator from New Jersey—the only two black senators in the 100-member House—led the negotiations and continued to insist that a deal could be struck.