ALL NEWS

Congress approves bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday

Jun 17, 2021, 6:56 AM
FILE People demonstrate in Chicago, Friday, June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth, the holiday celebrat...
FILE People demonstrate in Chicago, Friday, June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the day in 1865 that enslaved black people in Galveston, Texas, learned they had been freed from bondage, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States will soon have a new federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery.

The House voted 415-14 Wednesday to make Juneteenth, or June 19th, the 12th federal holiday. The bill now goes to President Joe Biden’s desk, and he is expected to sign it into law.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas — two months after the Confederacy had surrendered. That was also about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Southern states.

It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983.

“Our federal holidays are purposely few in number and recognize the most important milestones,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. “I cannot think of a more important milestone to commemorate than the end of slavery in the United States.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, speaking next to a large poster of a Black man whose back bore massive scarring from being whipped, said she would be in Galveston this Saturday to celebrate along with Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

“Can you imagine?” said the rather short Jackson Lee. “I will be standing maybe taller than Sen. Cornyn, forgive me for that, because it will be such an elevation of joy.”

The Senate passed the bill a day earlier under a unanimous consent agreement that expedites the process for considering legislation. It takes just one senator’s objection to block such agreements.

“Please, let us do as the Senate. Vote unanimously for passage,” Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., pleaded with his colleagues.

The vote comes as lawmakers struggle to overcome divisions on police reform legislation following the killing of George Floyd by police and as Republican state legislators push what experts say is an unprecedented number of bills aimed at restricting access to the ballot box. While Republicans say the goal is to prevent voter fraud, Democrats contend that the measures are aimed at undermining minority voting rights.

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus took to the floor to speak in favor of the bill. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., said she viewed Juneteenth as a commemoration rather than a celebration because it represented something that was delayed in happening.

“It also reminds me of what we don’t have today,” she said. “And that is full access to justice, freedom and equality. All these are often in short supply as it relates to the Black community.”

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and had 60 co-sponsors. Democratic leaders moved quickly to bring the bill to the House floor after the Senate’s vote the day before.

Some Republican lawmakers opposed the effort. Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., said creating the federal holiday was an effort to celebrate “identity politics.”

“Since I believe in treating everyone equally, regardless of race, and that we should be focused on what unites us rather than our differences, I will vote no,” he said in a press release.

The vast majority of states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or have an official observance of the day, and most states hold celebrations. Juneteenth is a paid holiday for state employees in Texas, New York, Virginia and Washington.

Under the legislation, the federal holiday would be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day.

Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., said that he would vote for the bill and that he supported the establishment of a federal holiday, but he was upset that the name of the holiday included the word “independence” rather than “emancipation.”

“Why would the Democrats want to politicize this by coopting the name of our sacred holiday of Independence Day?” Higgins asked.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., replied, “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.”

She added, “We have a responsibility to teach every generation of Black and white Americans the pride of a people who have survived, endured and succeeded in these United States of America despite slavery.”

The 14 House Republicans who voted against the bill were Andy Biggs of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Ronny Jackson of Texas, Doug LaMalfa of California, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Tom McClintock of California, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Mike Rogers of Alabama, Rosendale of Montana, Chip Roy of Texas and Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food announced Wednesday two new cases of avian influenza....
Mark Jones

Two new cases of avian influenza announced Wednesday

Two new cases of avian influenza have been confirmed by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. The new cases are in Iron and Utah counties.
1 day ago
A suspect is in custody Wednesday evening after University of Utah Police say two hidden cameras we...
Mark Jones

Hidden cameras found in restrooms in U of U Student Life Center, suspect in custody

University of Utah Police say a suspect has been arrested after two hidden cameras were found inside two different restrooms inside the Student Life Center.
1 day ago
Salt Lake City Police took a 44-year-old man into custody on Wednesday in connection to the burglar...
Mark Jones

SLC Police arrest man for burglarizing two law offices

Salt Lake City Police say a 44-year-old man was arrested Wednesday in connection to burglarizing two downtown law offices last week.
1 day ago
Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson wants his old job back. ...
Mark Jones

Rocky Anderson announces bid to run for SLC mayor in 2023

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson announced Wednesday that he is seeking reelection to get his old job back.
1 day ago
Orem auto-pedestrian collision...
Mark Jones

Two people hurt in auto-pedestrian collision in Orem

Orem police are investigating an auto-pedestrian collision that sent two people to the hospital Wednesday afternoon.
1 day ago
Fatal car crash...
Waverly Golden

Salt Lake City Police investigate deadly auto-pedestrian collision

SLC 9-1-1 received information about a deadly auto-pedestrian collision involving a Nissan pick-up Wednesday afternoon, according to Salt Lake City Police Department.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Congress approves bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday