Story at a glance

  • Juneteenth marks the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in the U.S.
  • “It’s simply not enough to commemorate Juneteenth. After all, the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans didn’t mark the end of America’s work to deliver on the promise of equality, it only marked the beginning,” the president said.
  • “To honor the true meaning of Juneteenth, we have to continue towards that promise because we haven’t gotten there yet,” he added.

President Biden on Thursday signed a bill establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday commemorating the abolition of slavery in the United States. 

“Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments...they embrace them,” Biden told a room of lawmakers, community leaders and activists, including 94-year-old Opal Lee, who campaigned to make Juneteenth a national holiday. 

“It’s simply not enough to commemorate Juneteenth. After all, the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans didn’t mark the end of America’s work to deliver on the promise of equality, it only marked the beginning,” the president said. 


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“To honor the true meaning of Juneteenth, we have to continue towards that promise because we haven’t gotten there yet,” he added. 

Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee, Emancipation or Freedom Day, marks the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in the U.S. 

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Gen. Gordon Granger made their way into Galveston, Texas, to deliver the news the Civil War was over and slavery had come to an end. The announcement came months after the war ended and more than two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. 

“We are gathered here, in a house built by enslaved people, we are footsteps away from where President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and we are here to witness President Joe Biden establish Juneteenth as a national holiday,” Vice President Harris said during the event. 


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“We have come far and we have far to go, but today is a day of celebration,” she said. 

The House voted 415-14 to pass the measure Wednesday, a day after the Senate passed the bill unanimously. 

It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established in 1983 and the 12th federally recognized holiday. The holiday will be observed Friday for federal employees as June 19 falls on Saturday.


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Published on Jun 17, 2021