JuneteenthJuneteenth

In the United States, Americans have been celebrating Juneteenth this weekend, the 3rd year from the holiday was given federal status by President Biden in 2021. Here’s what to know about the Juneteenth is the national holiday, the importance of it and how it came to be.

Juneteenth
Juneteenth

What to know about the Juneteenth is the national holiday?

The holiday, declared on June 19, is also known as Freedom Day or liberation Day, and has been celebrated by communities across the country for more than a century.

However, Juneteenth didn’t become federally-recognized until 2021, when President Biden signed legislation adding it to the national holiday calendar after both its name and significance rose to the forefront of national conversations the past year with the resurgence and momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The U.S. federal government now recognizes 12 holidays, including Juneteenth, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. When Mr. Biden approved the law two years ago, he remarked during a White House celebration that a national holiday had not been established since one was declared in 1983 to honor the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“In the united states everyone can feel the importance of this day, and learn from our history,” Mr. Biden said at the ceremony.

The law immediately went into effect with his signature, and the first Juneteenth, as a national holiday, was noticed the following day. That was June 18, 2021.

Since June 19 fell on a Saturday, government offices, alongside a number of personal businesses, shutdown their doors in acknowledgement.  Although the financial sector at the time continued to operate as originally planned, NASDAQ confirmed last month that the stock market will be closed Monday for Juneteenth, as was last year, and as it is during other national holidays.

Mr. Biden signed the legislation after it passed quickly through both chambers of Congress earlier in the week. Answering public calls for federal recognition that grew throughout 2020 and into 2021, the Senate unanimously passed a bill to establish Juneteenth National Independence Day as a legal, public holiday, despite some initial pushback from Republican lawmakers.

The bill passed the House soon after, in a 415-14 vote, with all of the opposition coming from Republicans.

Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana, the first Republican to announce he would cast his vote against the bill, said he viewed it as an attempt to celebrate identity politics.

Other arguments against its passage from the GOP suggested that declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday would sow division because American Independence Day is already held annually, on July 4, to commemorate the country gaining independence after the Revolutionary War. Black soldiers fought in the U.S. Army throughout it, but slavery remained legal in all 13 colonies except Vermont, when the inaugural Independence Day happened a year later on July 4, 1777.

Why is Juneteenth so important?

Before Juneteenth became an official federal holiday, it was already declared as a nation or ceremonial holiday in 48 U.S. states as well as D.C. For decades, Juneteenth was declared a state holiday only in Texas, but then Maine, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia all executed laws in the present years to formally recognize the date, too.

Although communities have celebrated Juneteenth for more than 150 years, calls grew to establish it as a federal holiday during the summer of 2020, as the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and others became high-profile examples of a disproportionate number of deaths of Black Americans at the hands of White police officers.

Alongside the activism and unrest that came with America’s reckoning over racism and police brutality was a renewed push to honor Juneteenth, which many regard as a day meant to celebrate independence while also remembering the country’s long history of slavery.

“On behalf of all who have waited for this, I thank them,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee after the House voted to pass the legislation two years ago. “There is more to come in changing lives for justice, equality and freedom. That is what happened today.”

 

Jackson Lee and Sen. Ed Markey had each introduced bills to declare Juneteenth a national holiday in the wake of Floyd’s death the summer before, but neither bill received a floor vote at that time. When both lawmakers reintroduced their proposed legislation early the next year, they were met with broad bipartisan support.

Koritha Mitchell, an English professor at Ohio State University who celebrated Juneteenth with her family while growing up in a town outside of Houston, told USA National Post once the bill was sent to Mr. Biden’s desk that “creating community and connection” was a cornerstone of the holiday and what observing it meant for her.

Juneteenth was not embraced as a national Black holiday for a long, long time,” Gates said. “But it was kept alive by Black people in Texas. And that’s what’s so sweet about it. Our people have been hungry for holidays. Hungry for traditions. Hungry for stories about Black history.”

Schools and federal buildings will be closed Monday.

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