Originally posted on CNN
President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law legislation establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a US federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The holiday is the first federal holiday established since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983 and becomes at least the eleventh federal holiday recognized by the US federal government.
The US Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday that most federal employees will observe the holiday on Friday since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas, in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Only a handful of states currently observe Juneteenth as a paid holiday.
The legislation, which was passed by Congress on Wednesday, gained momentum following Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd last year. It was also spurred after Democrats won the White House and control of the House of Representatives and the US Senate.
The bill passed the House on Wednesday with a 415-14 vote after the Senate unanimously passed the legislation the day before.
The bill had bipartisan sponsors that included Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
Lee told reporters ahead of the final passage of the bill, “what I see here today is racial divide crumbling, being crushed this day under a momentous vote that brings together people who understand the value of freedom.”
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