Juneteenth National Independence Day Act bill signing
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (C) signs the 'S. 475, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act', during a bill enrollment ceremony on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, USA, 17 June 2021. When signed by US President Joe Biden, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act will officially make Juneteenth a federal holiday - a day celebrating the emancipation of African-Americans who had been enslaved in the United States. (MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

House Passes and Biden Signs New Bill To Make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to designate Juneteenth as a federal holiday, one day after the Senate unanimously voted for its passage. President Biden quickly signed the bill into law on June 17, making this year’s Juneteenth the first national recognition of Black Independence Day in the United States.

Dareh Gregorian and Haley Talbot of NBC News reported that the House vote passed by an incredibly wide margin of 415-14.

The 14 Representatives who voted against making Juneteenth a federal holiday were all middle-aged white Republican men. The 14 individuals were:

  • Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona
  • Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama
  • Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia
  • Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee
  • Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona
  • Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas
  • Rep. Doug LaMalfa of California
  • Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky
  • Rep. Tom McClintock of California
  • Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina
  • Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama
  • Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana
  • Rep. Chip Roy of Texas
  • Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin

“The June 19 holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. is already celebrated as a state or ceremonial holiday in 47 states and the District of Columbia,” Gregorian and Talbot reported. “When the measure is signed into law, June 19 will become the country’s 11th federal holiday.”

Juneteenth is also the first newly approved federal holiday since 1983 when “Martin Luther King Jr. Day” was signed into law.

Celebrating the passage in the House, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, said it has “been a long journey [but] we’re here.”

“Juneteenth honors the end of the years of suffering and brutality that African Americans endured under slavery, America’s original sin, and celebrates the legacy of perseverance that has become the hallmark of the African American experience in the struggle for equality,” Lee said.

After the Senate voted to pass the bill on June 15, Lee tweeted, “Juneteenth equals freedom and freedom is what America is about!”

Prior to the House vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the push to make Juneteenth a federal holiday was “an exciting, historic day” and one that was long overdue.

On the other hand, after voting against the bill, Rep. Rosendale let his bigotry plainly show, issuing a statement that said, “this is an effort by the Left to create a day out of whole cloth to celebrate identity politics as part of its larger efforts to make Critical Race Theory the reigning ideology of our country.”

Following President Biden’s approval of the new Juneteenth federal holiday, the bill will immediately go into effect, but since June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, most federal employees will now get Friday, June 18 off in observance of the historic and hugely consequential event.

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.

 

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