WASHINGTON, D.C. [6/17/21]—Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) was at the White House to witness President Biden sign into law her legislation to commemorate Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act—led by Sen. Smith and her colleagues Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas)—passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday. The identical House measure, led by U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), passed yesterday.
“The end of slavery in the United States is a critical milestone in our country’s history,” said Sen. Smith. “I fought to make Juneteenth a federal holiday because it’s important to mark it as a day of celebration, reflection, and rededication to the cause of racial justice in this country.
“I am forever grateful to the generations of activists who made this possible. In particular, I want to thank Ms. Opal Lee, who at 89 years old, walked halfway across this country to raise support for Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
“This law is an important step but we have much farther to go on the path towards justice. Let’s use this victory to build momentum for the systemic change we need – like protecting voting rights, safeguarding our democracy, passing meaningful policing and criminal justice reform, pursuing economic and environmental justice, and working towards a more just and equitable world.”
“Juneteenth,” observed on June 19, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States and is also known as Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, and Juneteenth Independence Day. On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, which announced that, in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation, “all slaves are free.”