President Joe Biden signed legislation Thursday establishing a new federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery and said he believes it will be one of the greatest honors he has as president.
Biden signed into law a bill to make June 16, or June 19, the twelfth federal holiday. The House voted 415-14 on Wednesday to send the bill to Biden, while the Senate passed the bill unanimously the day before.
“This is a day of profound weight and profound power, a day in which we remember the moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to cause,” Biden said.
June 19th commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved blacks in Galveston, Texas, two months after the Confederacy surrendered.
That was also about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the southern states.
It is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. One of the federal holidays, Inauguration Day, occurs every four years.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which is the federal government’s human resources office, tweeted Thursday that most federal employees will observe the new holiday, the 16th National Independence Day, on Friday, already that June 19 is Saturday of this year.
Biden highlighted the overwhelming support for the bill by lawmakers from both parties. He had run for president on the promise to unite the country and work with Republicans, but his first major legislation to bring further COVID relief to American consumers and businesses was passed along partisan lines and he has fought to unite. to legislators to support a major public works bill.
“I hope this is the beginning of a change in the way we treat each other,” Biden said.
Biden signed the legislation surrounded by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as the legislation’s main sponsors in the Senate, Senators Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, and John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. It was introduced by Vice President Kamala Harris, the nation’s first African-American Vice President.
African Americans were glad that Biden made June 18th a federal holiday, but some said that while they appreciated the recognition at a time of racial reckoning in America, more is needed to change the policies that hurt many of its people. brothers.
“It’s great, but it’s not enough,” said Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Kansas City. Grant said she was delighted with this week’s quick vote by Congress to make June 19th a national holiday because “it’s been a long time coming.”
But he added that “we need Congress to protect voting rights, and that must happen right now so that we don’t go back any further. That is the most important thing that Congress can address right now. ”
Community organizer Kimberly Holmes-Ross, who helped make her hometown of Evanston, Illinois the first city in the U.S. to pay for repairs, said she was happy about the new federal holiday because it will bring more people to the know June 18th .
But she would have liked Congress to act first on anti-lynching legislation or voter protection.
“I’m not very excited just about all the other things that are still going on,” said Holmes-Ross, 57. “It hasn’t addressed what we really need to talk about.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism