President of the United States Joe Biden Thursday signed into law the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, thereby officially declaring June 19th a federal holiday.
Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in America;
On June 19, 1865, Union Army general Gordon Granger upon arrival in Galveston, Texas, proclaimed to enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had ended and they were free. This is the basis of Juneteenth celebration.
With Biden’s signing the legislation into law on Thursday, June 19 would now be recognized as a federal holiday marking Juneteenth National Independence Day. According to the U.S. President, it would be remembered as “one of the greatest honors” of his presidency.
“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,” Biden said at the White House during a signing ceremony.
“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.
CNN reports the historic ceremony took place in the East Room with some 80 members of Congress — including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, local elected officials, community leaders and activists. President Biden also specifically noted that Opal Lee, the activist who campaigned to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday, was in attendance.
Biden, speaking at the White House alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, said: “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.
Biden also states it was not enough to commemorate the holiday, but to use it as a day of reflection and action.
“We can’t rest until the promise of equality if fulfilled for every one of us in every corner of this nation. That to me is the meaning of Juneteenth,” Biden said.
Biden reiterating his government’s commitment to deliver equality emphasized that the promise of equality is not going to fulfilled “so long as the sacred right to vote remains under attack.” The President specifically pointed to restrictive voter laws in some states, calling them “an assault that offends our very democracy.”
The holiday becomes at least the eleventh federal holiday recognized by the US federal government, the site reports
This comes on the heels of the #BlackLivesMatter movement gaining momentum.
Juneteenth is a special celebration on June 19th commemorating the end of the United States’ historic practice of slavery. The day therefore honors the “freedom” of all people living in the United States.