By Will Johnson
EAST TEXAS – Nearly two and a half years after the U.S. abolishment of slavery in 1863, Union Gen. Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation – on June 19 – from a balcony in Galveston and African-Americans in Texas were finally freed. Since then, that date has become an international day of celebration and was officially declared a state holiday in 1980.
In the four plus decades since, every state but South Dakota now officially commemorates Juneteenth, however, only a handful of states observe it as a paid holiday.
That all changed on Thursday, June 17, at 4:03 pm ET, when President Joe Biden signed a bi-partisan bill into law making Juneteenth a federal holiday.
The bill’s sponsors included Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
Prior to the signing ceremony, Vice-President Kamala Harris remarked, “We have come far, and we have far to go. But today is a day of celebration.”
Following the official signing, President Biden commented, “Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments. They embrace them. I regret that my grandchildren aren’t here, because this is a really, really, really important moment in our history. In short, this day doesn’t just celebrate the past. It calls for action today.”
Juneteenth National Independence Day – as the day will be formally known as – is the 12th federal holiday and the first new one created since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was signed into law in 1983 by then-President Ronald Reagan.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.