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The House on Wednesday passed a bill to make Juneteenth or June 19th, the date in 1865 when slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom, a national holiday.
The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday, and now President Joe Biden is set to sign the legislation into law Thursday to make Juneteenth the 12th federal holiday, Chicago Tribune reports. The House voted 415-14 on Wednesday, with all votes against it coming from Republicans.
“It has been a long journey,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Houston and author of the bill, said on the floor. “This bill and this day is about freedom.”
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers informed enslaved Black people in Galveston of their freedom- about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Southern states.
“Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a major step forward to recognize the wrongs of the past,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., as reported by Yahoo. “But we must continue to work to ensure equal justice and fulfill the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our Constitution.”
“It’s also a recognition that we have so much work to do to rid this country of systemic racism, discrimination, and hate,” Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a Democrat from Detroit, said. “Juneteenth, what we are doing today, should empower us to fight even harder every single day for criminal-justice reform, for racial equality, and for economic empowerment of Black people in America.”
Many Black folks have taken to social media to note that the holiday does not solve problems like the ongoing impact of white supremacy in society and police brutality.
As reported by MSN, Zellie Imani, a teacher, blogger, and activist, said: “We didn’t ask for Juneteenth to be observed as a national holiday, we wanted an end to police violence.”
Twitter user @MajorPhilebrity said: “The humor of America making Juneteenth a national holiday when they’re banning people from teaching about it in schools is not lost on me”
Writer Liz Dwyer wrote: “Soooo… Juneteenth can be unanimously approved by the Senate as a national holiday but we can’t pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act?”
Filmmaker Bree Newsome noted: “I find this insulting, actually. For the Senate to unanimously pass this bill but refuse to unanimously support Black voting rights is a spit in the face. It’s [an] entirely patronizing, hollow performance. They don’t deserve applause for this.”
Eunique Jones Gibson, author and activist, tweeted: “So the senate passed the bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday but they still haven’t made lynching a federal hate crime? Got it.”