Alana Wise, NPR, June 17, 2021
President Biden on Thursday signed a bill to recognize Juneteenth — the celebration to commemorate the end of chattel slavery in the United States — as a federal holiday.
Federal employees will observe the holiday for the first time on Friday.
“Throughout history, Juneteenth has been known by many names: Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day, and today, a national holiday,” said Vice President Harris, who is the first woman, Asian-American and the first Black person to serve as vice president.
“We are gathered here in a house built by enslaved people. We are footsteps away from where President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation,” she said at the White House signing ceremony. “We have come far, and we have far to go. But today is a day of celebration. It is not only a day of pride. It’s also a day for us to reaffirm and rededicate ourselves to action.”
Guests at the event included members of the Congressional Black Caucus and 94-year-old Opal Lee, a decades-long activist to see Juneteenth recognized nationally.
Biden’s signature comes after the measure cruised through both chambers of Congress earlier this week, facing no opposing votes in the Senate and only minor Republican dissent in the House of Representatives.
The federal recognition of Juneteenth is one of several Biden administration attempts to reconcile America’s dark and troubled past with racial minorities, specifically African Americans.
He described slavery as a moral stain on the country and said enslavement of Black Americans was the nation’s “original sin.”
“This day doesn’t just celebrate the past. It calls for action today. I wish all Americans a happy Juneteenth,” Biden said.