President Joe Biden has signed legislation making Juneteenth, the day that marks the end of slavery in the United States, a federal holiday.
Biden held a signing ceremony at the White House Thursday afternoon, following a bill designating June 19 as a new federal holiday passing both the House of Representatives and the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.
“Great nations do not ignore their most painful moments. They embrace it, ”Biden said in remarks before signing.
“Great nations are not going away,” he added. “We agree with the mistakes we made, and remembering these moments, we begin to heal.”
Juneteenth, 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 paid. free days u federal holidays, which are also often recognized by private employers.
Juneteenth, a portmanteau word from June 19, recalls the date in 1865 when Union troops transmitted news of freedom to slaves in Texas more than two months after the end of the American Civil War. United. President Abraham Lincoln had published his Emancipation Proclamation, formally declaring slaves as free, more than two years earlier.
The commemorations originated in Texas but eventually spread to U.S. states. The date has been embraced by corporate America following the assassination of George Floyd, a black man, by a Minneapolis police officer last year.
“With this step Congress ensures that one of the most important events in our history, particularly black Americans, for 150 years now is officially recognized and inscribed in our history books and takes its place of honor. in our nation, ”Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, said Wednesday before a vote in the lower house of Congress.
The June bill passed the Democratic-controlled House with a 415-14 vote late Wednesday after it was approved by the Senate using a procedure called unanimous approval, meaning no senator opposed it. It will become law when it is 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 where lawmakers are still fighting for the federal government police reform the legislation was first drafted shortly after Floyd’s assassination in May 2020.
Biden had asked Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice Act in Policing Act before the first anniversary of Floyd’s death. But lawmakers missed the deadline because of a protracted disagreement over qualified immunity, a legal principle that protects police from being held accountable for actions they take at work.
Tim Scott, the Republican senator from South Carolina, and Cory Booker, the Democratic senator from New Jersey – the only two black senators in his 100-member chamber – have led the negotiations and continue to insist an agreement can be made. .