President Joe Biden signed law Thursday introducing Juniteenth, the date to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States, as a federal holiday.
Biden signed the bill two days before June 15 himself, which is June 19 each year, in what he called “one of the greatest honors” of his presidency.
“We have come a long way and we still have to go a long way. But today is a day of celebration,” said Vice President Kamala Harris, who addressed the president at the signing ceremony at the White House.
“Big nations don’t ignore their most painful moments,” Biden told the crowd in the East Room, which included dozens of politicians, activists and community leaders. “You hug her.”
United States President Joe Biden applauds Vice President Kamala Harris as they arrive in the East Room of the White House in Washington on June 17, 2021 to sign the National Independence Day Act of June 2021.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
“In short, this day doesn’t just celebrate the past. He calls for action today, ”said Biden.
National Independence Day in June will be the 12th public holiday, including Inauguration Day, and the first new day since then-President Ronald Reagan signed Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of the last of the enslaved African Americans. On that day in 1865, Union soldiers, led by General Gordon Granger, arrived in the coastal city of Galveston, Texas to deliver General Order No. 3 that officially ended slavery in the state.
The final act of liberation came months after the Confederate Army’s surrender ended the Civil War and more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865, two months before his proclamation reached Texas.
Most federal workers will be celebrating June 10th on Friday this year because June 19th falls on a Saturday. The New York Stock Exchange won’t close for June thenth this year, but it will evaluate the closing markets for the holiday in 2022, according to the exchange.
The Securities Exchange Commission will close its offices on Friday for the new holiday, a spokesman said. The SEC’s online data platform, EDGAR, “will also be closed and will not accept filings or assist in assisting applicants,” the spokesman said.
The Holiday Bill was passed with overwhelming support in both houses of Congress this week. The Senate unanimously approved the bill Tuesday night, and the House of Representatives passed it by 415 votes to 14. The only votes against the law came from the Republicans.
Prior to the House vote, some GOP lawmakers complained about the name of the holiday and others expressed concern about the cost of another federal workforce day off. Some also railed against the Democrats for putting the bill to the vote without first allowing the committees to review the law and propose changes.
Still, most of the House Republicans, even those who opposed parts of the bill, voted in favor.
The Juniteenth Bill was sponsored in the Senate by Edward Markey, D-Mass, and the House version, sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, was endorsed by 166 legislators.
The 14 votes against were:
- Rep Mo Brooks, R-Ala.
- Rep Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.
- Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.
- Rep Tom Tiffany, R-Wis.
- Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.
- Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala.
- Rep. Ralph Norman, RS.C.
- Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas
- Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.
- Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif.
- Rep Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.
- Rep Ronny Jackson, R-Texas
- Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky.
- Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga.
– CNBC’s Bob Pisani contributed to this report