Senate Passes a Bill to Make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday

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A 5,000-square-foot mural seen on the facade of a building in Galveston, Texas, on the spot where Gordon Granger, a Union general, brought news of emancipation to the state’s enslaved Black people in 1865.
Credit...Montinique Monroe for The New York Times

Zach Montague

  • June 15, 2021

The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill to recognize Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the United States, as a federal holiday.

Many states have recognized Juneteenth for decades, but only some observe it as an official holiday. The holiday is already celebrated in 47 states and the District of Columbia, but has yet to receive federal recognition as a national holiday.In the wake of protests against police brutality last year, dozens of companies moved to give employees the day off for Juneteenth, and the push for federal recognition of the day as a paid holiday gained new momentum.

I just put a bill on the floor of the Senate from @SenMarkey and @SenTinaSmith to make #Juneteenth a federal holiday.

It passed the Senate!

Next up: It should pass the House. Then to President Biden’s desk for signature.

— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) June 15, 2021

The day, which is also known as Emancipation Day, recalls June 19, 1865, when Gordon Granger, a Union general, arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African-Americans that the Civil War had ended and that they had been freed under the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. The proclamation ended slavery only in states that had seceded; an end to slavery in the entire country waited until December 1865, when the 13th Amendment was adopted into the Constitution.

Texas was the first state to observe Juneteenth as an official holiday, starting in 1980.

The latest effort to commemorate the day as a federal holiday came through a bill which the Senate passed unanimously on Tuesday. It heads to the House next. If it becomes law, it would be the 11th national holiday recognized annually by the federal government.

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