Senate Passes Bill to Make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday

The Juneteenth flag, which commemorates the day that slavery ended in the U.S. (Nati Harnik/AP)

The U.S. Senate passed a bill Tuesday to recognize June 19, or Juneteenth, as an official holiday. It passed with unanimous consent without a roll call vote or objections from the chamber.

The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act heads to the House for approval. If it passes and President Joe Biden signs it into law, every federal employee will be granted a day off to commemorate June 19, 1865, the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, discovered President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved African Americans in rebel states 2½ years earlier. The day is also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, reintroduced the bill in February to designate Juneteenth a federal holiday.

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Markey introduced it last June in the wake of the high-profile killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor – all Black people who died at the hands of police or armed white citizens. The 2020 bill did not progress to a vote.

In a statement, Markey said the U.S. has “failed to acknowledge, address, and come to grips with our nation’s original sin of slavery.”

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SOURCE: USA Today, Chelsey Cox

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