Emancipation Day

A bill to make Juneteenth a US federal holiday clears the Senate

North America

On Tuesday June 15th 2021, the Senate voted unanimously to make Juneteenth a national holiday commemorating the abolition of slavery in the United States.

Senators did not object when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) moved to pass the bill.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who blocked the bill’s passage last year, announced earlier on Tuesday that he was dropping his opposition to it.

“While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter,” Johnson said in a press release. “Therefore, I do not intend to object.”

The bill now goes to the House. If it passes, Juneteenth will become the 11th federal holiday. Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Sheila Jackson, both of Texas, first proposed the bill last summer amid national protests over the murder of George Floyd, but it did not garner enough support.

Juneteenth marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to ensure that all enslaved people were freed, more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The following year, freedmen in Texas organized the first of what would become an annual celebration.