President Joe Biden signed legislation on June 17 making Juneteenth an official federal holiday, according to NBC News. Juneteenth is on June 19 and commemorates the day when slaves learned that they were freed in the United States.
President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but it wasn’t until Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, that many slaves learned they were free. The day became known as the day slavery ended, and a celebration was had. Juneteenth is also known as Jubilee Day, Black Independence Day and Emancipation day. Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas in 1979.
Vice president Kamala Harris was with the president when he signed the bill. Fourteen House Republicans voted against making Juneteenth an official holiday in the 415 to 14 vote.
Ninety-four-year-old Opal Lee was also in attendance. Lee is an activist from Fort Worth, Texas, and worked tirelessly to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. In 2016, Lee walked from Texas to Washington, D.C. to highlight Juneteenth. Prior to signing the bill, Biden said that it was his honor.
“I think this will go down for me as one of the greatest honors I have had as president,” Biden said.
Harris spoke about Juneteenth and noted that date wasn’t the end of slavery. It was just the day that slaves learned they were legally free.
“Let’s be clear about what happened on June 19, 1865. The day we call Juneteenth. Because you see, that day was not the end of slavery in America,” she said. “On that day, the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas learned that they were free.”
While Juneteenth becoming a national holiday is significant, it is important to note that we are a long way from obtaining equality in this country. Political scientist Niambi Carter from Howard University said that action is needed and a holiday isn’t enough.
“At the end of the day, what Black people want is equality,” she said. “A holiday is just a show. You can’t create the holiday and then refuse to talk about how Black people got here,” she said.
Biden also noted the need for action to bring true equality to Black people.
“Juneteenth doesn’t just celebrate the past. It calls for action today…The truth is, it’s not — simply not enough just to commemorate Juneteenth. After all, the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans didn’t mark the end of America’s work to deliver on the promise of equality; it only marked the beginning.”
Today, I had the honor of signing a bill to officially make Juneteenth a federal holiday. With this important step, all Americans can feel the power of the day, learn from our history, celebrate our progress, and grapple with the distance we still have to travel. pic.twitter.com/UN5WgCiAy2
— President Biden (@POTUS) June 17, 2021
Joe Biden signing a Juneteenth National Holiday Bill while we still waiting on a “lynching is a hate crime bill” seems a bit… PERFORMATIVE to me pic.twitter.com/BzmtgQXc17
— MBali Woo 💫 (@TheJessieWoo) June 17, 2021
Today, Congress overwhelmingly voted to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday. But let us not forget that in Florida & Texas, educators are banned from teaching Critical Race Theory. Let Juneteenth be both a day of celebration & day of education of our nation’s true history.
— Martin Luther King III (@OfficialMLK3) June 16, 2021
Wait a minute…
White people get to celebrate Juneteenth too??? pic.twitter.com/KZnSS0I75C
— MBali Woo 💫 (@TheJessieWoo) June 18, 2021
Of course, there are certain people who just can’t seem to stop stumpin’ for white supremacy. Graham cracker Candace Owens had to open her mouth and make sure we all know that she thinks celebrating the end of slavery is “soooo lame.” Twitter definitely had some opinions about Owens and her Uncle Tom opinion.
Juneteenth is soooo lame.
Democrats really need to stop trying to repackage segregation.
I’ll be celebrating July 4th and July 4th only.
I’m American. 🇺🇸
— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) June 17, 2021
How Candace Owens gonna look when she drives by Juneteenth cookouts this Saturday. pic.twitter.com/X6j0XNIJZ4
— Virgil, Hell’s #1 Tour Guide Since 1850. (@DisabledDream) June 17, 2021
It’s no surprise Candace Owens is opposed to #Juneteenth, I would expect nothing less from a modern day house kneegrow.
— Bishop Talbert Swan (@TalbertSwan) June 18, 2021
Twitter: Juneteenth is a Federal holiday.
Candace Owens: pic.twitter.com/hQ4nW57elR
— Jermaine (@JermaineWatkins) June 17, 2021