U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee Reintroduces Bill to Make Juneteenth Federal Holiday

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Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, along with U.S. Senators John Cornyn, Ed Markey and John Cornyn, filed bipartisan bills last week to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

“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,” Rep. Jackson Lee said in a statement.

On June 19, 1865, Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, to inform the slaves of their emancipation — more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

Over recent years, commercial companies have recognized Juneteenth as a holiday, but activists are still rallying for formal recognition from the federal government.

But this fight is not unique.

It took 32 years to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday. King’s birthday was approved as a federal holiday in 1983, but it was not until 2000 that all 50 states made it a state government holiday.

Still, Rep. Jackson Lee is optimistic this battle will be won.

“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.”

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