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Biden Signs Bill Making Juneteenth a Federal Holiday
President calls it a day to remember ‘moral stain’ and ‘terrible toll’ slavery took on the nation
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President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law Thursday, creating the first new federal holiday in nearly four decades. WSJ’s Patrick Thomas explains how the signing could be a catalyst for more firms to observe the holiday. Photo: Evan Vucci/Associated Press
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Updated June 17, 2021 5:31 pm ET
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WASHINGTON—President Biden signed a bill Thursday making Juneteenth a national holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., calling it a day to remember the “moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country.”
The holiday was set to take effect immediately. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management said on Twitter Thursday that because the 19th falls on a Saturday this year, “most federal employees will observe the holiday tomorrow, June 18th.”
This is the first new federal holiday created by Congress in nearly four decades. The bill passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday and was approved 415-14 in the House Wednesday.
“Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments,” Mr. Biden said during a signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House, surrounded by lawmakers and guests, including Opal Lee, a Texas activist who campaigned to make Juneteenth a national holiday. “Great nations don’t walk away. We come to terms with the mistakes we made. And remembering those moments, we begin to heal and grow stronger.”
Juneteenth—also known as Emancipation Day, Black Independence Day and Jubilee Day—marks the 1865 date when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived with federal troops in Galveston, Texas, arrived with federal troops in Galveston, Texas, and issued an order informing the last enslaved people in Texas that they were free. This came more than two months after the end of the Civil War and about 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in the Confederacy.
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