It’s official—Juneteenth, the day that many observe as the end to slavery in the nation will be the next federal holiday.
The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor Wednesday (June 16th) on the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, 415 to 14. Juneteenth’s origins stem from the day of June 19th, 1865 that the last Black people that were enslaved in Galveston, Texas learned that they were freed due to the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in the nation issued two years earlier. Juneteenth will be the first federal holiday created since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was created in 1983.
Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D), who first introduced the bill to the House last year along with other lawmakers, had the honor of gaveling in the final vote in the House chambers. She will be in Galveston on Saturday along with Texas Senator John Conryn (R) the bill to celebrate.
Despite entreaties from some in the House to make the vote unanimous like the Senate’s, the bill did have objections from Republican members including Arizona Representative Paul Gosar and Texas Representative Chip Roy. Their major complaint was the cost of giving federal workers another day off, and that the name of the official bill contained the word “independence” rather than “emancipation”. “I want to say to my white colleagues on the other side, getting your independence from being enslaved in a country is different from a country getting independence to rule themselves,” said Michigan Representative Brenda Lawrence (D) in a statement.
President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill today in a press conference along with Vice President Kamala Harris. Federal employees will have Friday (June 18th) as a day off as the law takes effect. This was announced via the U.S. Office of Personnel Management via Twitter.