Every year, the auspicious date is celebrated by Black people, which signifies the end of slavery. Biden and Kamala Harris will also speak at the signing of the Juneteenth National Independence Day bill into law, which is the U.S.’s 12th public holiday, according to CNBC.
“By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history and celebrate progress and grapple with the distance we’ve come but the distance we haven’t traveled yet,” Biden said during his speech. “Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments. They don’t ignore those moments in the past—they embrace them. Great nations don’t walk away. We come to terms with the mistakes we made.”
He continued, “In remembering those moments, we begin to heal and grow stronger. The truth is, it’s simply not enough just 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. To honor the true meaning of Juneteenth, we have to continue toward that promise because we’ve not gotten there yet.”
Since Juneteenth is on a weekend this year, federal workers will have the prior Friday off in observation. Juneteenth National Independence Day is the first newly created federal holiday since former President Ronald Reagan signed legislation for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. The last enslaved Black people were emancipated on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers handed over General Order No. 3, ending slavery in Texas, two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
The bill went through the Senate unanimously on Tuesday night, while the House’s version saw 415 representatives for it and 14 against, all of whom were all Republicans. The Senate bill was spearheaded by Edward Markey, D-Mass, and the House legislation by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.
Watch the live stream of Joe Biden signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day bill into law at the top.