Juneteenth Has Been Declared a Federal Holiday by Congress
UPDATE: It's official - Juneteenth National Independence Day is now a federal holiday after President Joe Biden signed the bill into law Thursday afternoon.
Juneteenth will be the subject of a new national holiday for the first time in nearly 40 years. That's just in time for Saturday's 156th anniversary of the last African American slaves being declared freed in Texas after the Civil War.
The House passed the legislation on Wednesday night. Next, president Joe Biden will sign the document. As soon as Biden signs it, Juneteenth will become the first federal holiday established since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was enacted in 1983.
The new holiday is called Juneteenth National Independence Day.
Biden is likely to be accompanied for the signing by Vice President Kamala Harris, who introduced the legislation in the Senate last year alongside Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas.
I feel like this is a step moving forward with the acknowledgment of Juneteenth being a holiday of great significance.
Even though I am from Florida and had never heard of the celebration until I moved to Texas, Juneteenth is history that everyone needs to know about.
A little bit about Juneteenth...
The name is derived from the date on which Union official Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger read aloud in Galveston an announcement that all slaves were free as a result of the Union's victory over the Confederacy - June 19, 1865. Freedmen, as former slaves were called, were told there had been established an "equality of personal rights and property between former masters and slaves", though history would show that wasn't the reality for many people.
However, it was a significant step forward, and what's really amazing is that this happened about two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation - something most people in Texas, especially people of color, hadn't yet even heard about.
Texas became the first state to establish Juneteenth as an official holiday in 1979. In addition, 49 states and the District of Columbia now recognize the day, with South Dakota being the lone exception, despite legislative attempts earlier this year.
Reflections, parades, food, drink, music, and advocacy are all part of celebrations. In fact, there're celebrations happening right here in the Killeen-Harker Heights area this weekend.
Many companies, including Nike, Twitter, Google, and General Motors, have signed on to make Juneteenth a paid company holiday. Several companies adopted the policy last year in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.
I will have sense of pride as I attend some of the Juneteenth events this weekend.
Happy Juneteenth, everyone!