Congress on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday, elevating the day marking the end of slavery in Texas to a national commemoration of emancipation amid a larger reckoning about America’s turbulent history with racism.
It is the first new federal holiday created by Congress since 1983, when lawmakers voted to establish Martin Luther King Jr. Day after a 15-year fight to commemorate the assassinated civil rights leader.
The vote was heralded by the bill’s supporters as a milestone in the effort to foster a greater recognition of the horrors of slavery in the United States and the long history of inequality that followed emancipation and continues to this day.
“It’s a long journey, but here we are,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.), the lead proponent of the holiday in the House. “That racial divide has fallen out of the sky and we are crushing it to the earth. . . . This bill and this day is about freedom.”
If the president signs the bill today, the first actual holiday will be Saturday.
The bill passed unanimously in the Senate — unheard of nowadays — and had only fourteen no votes in the House. And of course those were from fourteen old white farts who grumbled something stupid about “critical race theory,” but I get the feeling these grumps would vote against Mothers Day because it empowers women unfairly.
Anyway, it’s a step in recognizing real history.