Juneteenth becomes a national holiday

President Joe Biden signs the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law
President Joe Biden signs the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law Photo credit Drew Angerer/Getty Images
By , KCBS

President Joe Biden signed legislation Thursday establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday, honoring the attested end of slavery in the United States.

Biden was joined by Vice President Harris, Black members of Congress, and 94-year-old Opal Lee, the activist whose life's work has been getting Juneteenth recognized.

"I've only been president for several months," Biden said, "but I think this will go down for me as one of the greatest honors I will have had as president. Not because I did it. You did it, Democrats and Republicans."

The Senate unanimously passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act Tuesday. The House of Representatives moved quickly to do the same Wednesday, voting 415-14.

The holiday celebrated on June 19 commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It took two and a half years for news of their freedom to reach Black slaves in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865.

The Office of Personnel Management announced that because the holiday falls on a Saturday this year, federal employees will get Friday off in observance of the day.

Juneteenth becomes the 12th federal holiday. The last one added to the calendar was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 1983.

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