President Biden has signed into law a bill creating a federal holiday to commemorate Juneteenth, the day marking the end of slavery in America.
Federal employees will get tomorrow off.
June 19, 1865 is the day when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army informed the remaining enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, that they were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation issued more than two years earlier.
More than a dozen House Republicans voted against the legislation on Wednesday.
The House still passed the bill overwhelmingly by a vote of 415-14, a day after the Senate approved it by unanimous consent.
The 14 Republicans who voted against the bill, all white men, were Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Andrew Clyde (Ga.), Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Ronny Jackson (Texas), Doug LaMalfa (Calif.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Mike Rogers (Ala.), Matt Rosendale (Mont.), Chip Roy (Texas) and Tom Tiffany (Wis.).
Multiple House Republicans objected to officially calling the holiday “Juneteenth National Independence Day” out of concerns it could be confused with Independence Day on July 4.
Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, responded the argument was “inappropriate.”
“I want 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. It is not a day that you can loop together. That is inappropriate,” Lawrence said.
The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday under a unanimous consent agreement hours after Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) announced that he would not object to its passage.
Many states have recognized Juneteenth for decades, but only some observe it as an official holiday.
The day is already celebrated in 47 states and the District of Columbia.
After the protests for racial justice last year, dozens of companies moved to give employees the day off for Juneteenth, and the push for federal recognition as a paid holiday gained new momentum.
Texas was the first state to observe Juneteenth as an official holiday, starting in 1980.
The push to recognition comes as Republicans around the country, including some in Congress, are pushing to bar schools from using curriculum that explores the legacy of slavery and teaches about the effects of racism on myriad aspects of society.
“We do know there’s a movement to erase history with attacks on critical race theory and teaching children about the presence of systemic racism in our country’s history,” said Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) a lead sponsor of the bill.
Making Juneteenth a federal holiday “acknowledges slavery as the original sin built into the United States Constitution,” he added. “We celebrate its eradication, but we can’t celebrate how deeply racism resulted in America’s policies and is still built into education, health care, housing and every other policy.”