U.S. Senators Smith, Markey, Booker & U.S. Rep. Jackson Lee Renew Push to Make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday

WASHINGTON, D.C. [2/25/21]—Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX18) renewed their push to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

The lawmakers said “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.” 

Juneteenth is currently recognized by 47 states and the District of Columbia as an official state holiday or observance. The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act would recognize the importance of this day nationwide.

“It’s long past time that we recognize Juneteenth—the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the US—as a federal holiday,” said Sen. Smith. “Last year we introduced the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, and while it was blocked on the Senate floor, we’re not backing down. This is a bill with ample bipartisan support and I will keep fighting until it becomes law.”

“We commemorate Juneteenth as the day that word of emancipation finally reached enslaved people in Texas in 1865, but we know the struggle for true Black liberation continues,” said Sen. Markey. “For too long, we have tried to whitewash our nation’s history instead of confronting the uncomfortable and painful truth. This legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday is but one step we can take to begin to right the wrongs of the past and ensure equal justice in the future.”

“Juneteenth commemorates the day when enslaved Texans finally learned of their freedom from slavery, more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation,” said Sen. Booker. “Today, we celebrate Juneteenth as a reflection of our ancestors’ strength, indomitable grace, and relentless hope. Our nation has so much work left to do in addressing the legacy and trauma of slavery and systemic racism that persists to this day. Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is long overdue and will represent a step forward in the path toward accountability, justice and healing.”  

“Juneteenth honors the end of the years of suffering that African Americans endured under slavery and celebrates the legacy of perseverance that has become the hallmark of the African American experience in the struggle for equality,” said Rep. Jackson Lee. “Juneteenth celebrates African American freedom while encouraging self-development and respect for all cultures. But it must always remain a reminder to us all that liberty and freedom are the precious birthright of all Americans which must be jealously guarded and preserved for future generations. As it takes on a more national and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all our roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing. This is why we must establish the Juneteenth Independence Day, as a national holiday. And today we also pay special tribute to Opal Lee, the Grandmother of Juneteenth!”

The National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, the Leadership Conference on Civil Human Rights, the NAACP, Spotify, the U.S. Travel Association and the American Hotel & Lodging Association all support this bill.

This legislation is supported by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Angus S. King Jr. (I-Maine), Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Susan M. Collins (R-Maine), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.).

You can access text of the bill here