U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday signed a legislation to make Juneteenth, or June 19, a federal holiday. The day commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
Juneteenth more specifically marks the end of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865, when enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, were told they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed it in 1863.
“On Thursday, June 17, 2021, the President signed into law: S. 475, the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,” which designates Juneteenth National Independence Day as a legal public holiday,” the White House said in a statement.
Mr. Biden, who returned from his 8-day overseas trip on Wednesday night, signed the legislation just a day after the House voted overwhelmingly for it by a vote of 415 to 14. The 14 lawmakers who opposed the legislation were all Republicans.
The Senate passed the measure with no debate early this week after clearing a longstanding Republican objection.
“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 had as president,” Mr. Biden said from the White House.
Vice President Kamala D. Harris also signed the legislation in her capacity as president of the Senate.
Speaking at the signing of the bill at the White House, Harris said national holidays are days when “we as nation have decided to stop and take stock, and often to acknowledge our history.”
“Throughout history, Juneteenth has been known by many names, and today, a national holiday,” she said.
President Biden said from now on, “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 but the distance we have to travel.”