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Why is Juneteenth being considered a national holiday?

The Senate has officially passed a bill to make Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, the 12th federal holiday.

Juneteenth-national-holiday
Olivier Douliery/AFP AFP

The Senate has officially passed a bill marking Juneteenth a national holiday. The bill was passed and will now make its way to the House of Representatives and eventually to President Joe Biden where it will be signed into law.

What is Juneteenth and why is it celebrated?

June 19, known as Juneteenth, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that all people held as slaves should be free, was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1963. However, it wasn’t until June 19, 1965 that slaves in bondage in Galveston, Texas were freed.

Why is Juneteenth being considered a national holiday?

Juneteenth is on its way to being recognized as a national holiday after a yearlong fight. In 2020, while Black Lives Matters marches were filling the streets, Sheila Jackson proposed the measure to get Congress to formally recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday in the United States. Ed Markey and John Cornyn also played a significant role in pushing this bill forward.

Last year, the bill was blocked with concerns by Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who said the additional holiday would create a huge cost for taxpayers. However, this year there was no formal opposition and the bill was passed unanimously.

"Although I strongly support celebrating Emancipation, I objected to the cost and lack of debate.” Johnson said regarding the bill. “While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter."

Juneteenth has been a state holiday in Texas since 1960.

What does this holiday mean for Americans?

Juneteenth would become the 12th federal holiday in the United States. This means that federal employees would be given a day off each year on June 19 to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. Some private companies have and will offer Juneteenth as a paid day off for employees, but it will not be a requirement by law.