Today has just become Juneteenth - an official federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
The US Senate unanimously passed a resolution this week that would designate 19 June as Juneteenth National Independence Day. Juneteenth specifically celebrates 19 June, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas as a response to President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. The date has been a state holiday in Texas since 1980 and is officially commemorated in every state except South Dakota - but only a handful of states observe it as a paid holiday.
Recently, the movement to designate Juneteenth as an official holiday has been growing in the wake of last year’s momentous Black Lives Matter protests. The holiday was proposed to the Senate last year but was blocked by Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson who claimed a new federal holiday would be too costly to taxpayers. Johnson dropped his objection this week despite his concerns, paving the way for the bill's passage in the Senate.
The bill has now been approved by the House and signed into law by President Biden, thus confering federal holiday status on the date, making it the country’s 12th federal holiday and a paid day off for all Americans. The last holiday added was Martin Luther King Jr. Day which was designated in 1983.
Juneteenth is also known as Emancipation Day. People across the country celebrate with food and festivities, much like the Fourth of July.