On June 15, 2021, the Senate passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act with unanimous consent. The next day, the House of Representatives passed the bill with a 415-14 vote. After delivering remarks with Vice President Kamala Harris by his side on Thursday, June 17, President Joe Biden signed the legislation into law.
Google Trends data show many people online have wondered over the past year what Juneteenth is and if it has officially been declared a federal holiday.
Is Juneteenth now a federal holiday?
Yes, Juneteenth is now a federal holiday.
WHAT WE FOUND
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War, which declared that all enslaved people in states that had seceded from the United States “shall be free” on January 1, 1863.
According to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, the presidential proclamation and executive order was limited, applying only to states that had seceded from the Union and not border states, as well as exempting parts of the Confederacy that were already under Union control. Also, “the freedom it promised depended upon Union (United States) military victory.”
On its website, the Galveston Historical Foundation (GHF) says, “Lincoln’s proclamation would have little impact on Texans at that time due to the small number of Union troops available to enforce it.”
It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, more than two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, when the GHF says more than 2,000 federal soldiers of the 13th Army Corps arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced, through the reading of General Order No. 3, that all slaves were free. At that moment, the celebration of Juneteenth was officially born. The Thirteenth Amendment, which was passed by Congress on Jan. 31, 1865, and ratified on Dec. 6, 1865, officially abolished slavery throughout the entire U.S.
“In the late 1970s, the Texas Legislature declared Juneteenth a ‘holiday of significance […] particularly to the Blacks of Texas.’ Texas was the first state to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday. The law passed through the Texas Legislature in 1979 and was officially made a state holiday on January 1, 1980,” says GHF. “After Texas recognized the date, many states followed suit. Currently, 47 of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or ceremonial holiday, a day of observance.”
Juneteenth is now observed each year in over 200 cities across the U.S. with speeches and songs, picnics, parades, and exhibits of African-American history and art, according to GHF.
Following the signage of the bill by President Biden, Juneteenth officially became the 12th federal holiday in the U.S. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on Twitter, this year, federal employees will observe the holiday on Friday, June 18, because June 19 falls on a Saturday.
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