President Joe Biden signed legislation Thursday establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a U.S. federal holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in America.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday that most federal employees will observe the holiday on Friday this year since Juneteenth comes on a Saturday.
A growing number of states and D.C. currently celebrate Juneteenth annually on June 19. It’s a paid state holiday in Virginia and a commemorative holiday in the District and Maryland.
To mark the historic event, the National Cathedral in D.C. will be lit through June 19 from 9 p.m. to sunrise. And Moechella, a group dedicated to preserving the District’s go-go legacy while emphasizing its importance in African-American history, will host a Juneteenth weekend June 18 – 20.
The legislation for which many advocates have passionately proposed for years, passed by Congress on Wednesday, became a more obtainable goal after the Democrats won the White House and control of both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate in the 2020 General Election. It passed the House on Wednesday with a 415-14 vote after the Senate unanimously passed the legislation the day before.
Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Republican, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, said in anticipation of Biden’s signature, “what I see here today is racial divide crumbling, being crushed this day under a momentous vote that brings together people who understand the value of freedom.”
And Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., referred to the passage of the bill as “an important moment of reckoning.”
“This nation now will have an opportunity to learn even more about this important history that African Americans have faced,” she said. “It’s a moment that creates a more sense of inclusion. …A lot of Black Americans don’t feel included on our Independence Day as a nation because so many of our ancestors were not free.”