Juneteenth is Almost a Federal Holiday

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On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved a bill to establish June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day.

While the bill still needs to be approved by the House before being signed off by President Joe Biden, it is likely to pass without a hitch.

“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. “But we must continue to work to ensure equal justice and fulfill the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our Constitution.”

The day commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States. Confederate soldiers surrendered in April 1865, but the last enslaved Black people were not informed until June 19 of that year.

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” Major General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas.

Last year, the bill was blocked by Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who claimed that the day off for federal employees would cost U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Events over the course of the year have forced the senator to change his tune.

“Although I strongly support celebrating Emancipation, I objected to the cost and lack of debate,” said Johnson in a statement. “While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter.”

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