June 19, or more commonly known as Juneteenth, has become the day to commemorate news of the Emancipation Proclamation reaching Texas. It is now an official federal holiday, with the White House passing the legislation on Wednesday.
The House passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act as it moved swiftly through both chambers. Its passage came only a day after the Senate passed the legislation, after being held back in the upper chamber. It landed on United States President Joe Biden's desk for signing only a few days before Saturday when the Juneteenth holiday falls. The new act gives a day off to all federal employees.
Commemoration of Freedom
The legislation commemorates June 19, 1865, when slaves from Galveston, Texas discovered then-President Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves across the country two and a half years prior. People also know the holiday as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day.
The end of slavery was announced in Galveston, Texas by Major General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, following then-President Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth only became a Texas state holiday in 1980, BBC reported. While all but one state. South Dakota, has officially commemorated Juneteenth in the decades since, only a few observed it as a paid holiday.
Passage of the Bill
On Wednesday evening, the legislation passed in the House with a unanimous 415-14 voting on a bipartisan basis. Those who opposed were all Republicans. The House floor was filled with loud cheers when the passage was announced.
Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts acknowledged President Biden was still out of the country ahead of the voting. However, he said they would discuss with the White House how to get the legislation signed by the Democratic leader as soon as possible, CNN reported.
The United States has enough federal holidays and it should not be increased, GOP Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson said as his reason for opposing the act shortly before the voting. Many residents in several states already celebrate the date, he said, USA Today reported.
In 2020, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin blocked the legislation, arguing it would cost the government at least $600 million per year to give another day off. But this week, he dropped his objection despite his arguments, which allowed the bill to progress out of the chamber. The Wednesday voting was announced by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who also thanked the supporters of the bill.
Shortly before the final passage of the legislation, Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas said the bill expressed the crumbling of the racial divide in the United States. She added it showed just how many people understood the value of freedom.
Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a major step in acknowledging the wrongdoings of the past and marks the first step in moving forward to provide equal justice and to fulfill the Emancipation Proclamation's promise as well as the Constitution, Charles Schumer, the Democratic leader of the State, said.