After returning from his travel to the G7 summit which include the meeting Queen Elizabeth, Premier Boris Johnson and Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Biden returns just in time to sign a bill making Juneteenth a national holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S.
The holiday was set to take effect immediately. However on Thursday, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said on Twitter that because of the 19th falls on a Saturday this year, most federal employers observed the holiday on June 18.
The bill was passed in the Senate unanimously on Tuesday and was approved 415-14 in the House on Wednesday. Mr. Biden said in a statement, “Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments.” In the East Room of the White House surrounded by lawmakers and guests, Mr. Biden signed the bill making it the first new federal holiday created by Congress in nearly four decades. Ms. Opal Lee, a Texas activist who campaigned to make Juneteenth a national holiday was among the guests.
“Great nations don’t walk away. We come to terms with the mistakes we made. And, remembering those moments, we begin to heal and grow stronger,” Mr. Biden said.
The historic event is considered as Emancipation Day, Black Independence Day and Jubilee Day dated back in 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and issued an order freeing the nation’s last slaves.
This came more than two months after the end of the Civil Was and about 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing that slaves in the Confederacy. The ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in December 1865 abolished slavery throughout the country.
President Biden said that there is still work ahead to combat racial discrimination, stressing his efforts to provide equal access to housing programs and educational opportunities. In a statement, Mr. Biden opposed voting laws passed by Republican-dominated state legislatures, which Democrats say aim to prevent Democratic and minority-group voters from casting ballots.
During the ceremony, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised th Congressional Black Caucus for their work to pass the legislation saying: One of the most momentous events in our history finally takes its official place of honor in our nation.”