President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law Thursday, one day after the bill passed overwhelmingly in the House.
“Juneteenth marks both a long, hard night of slavery and subjugation and a promise of a brighter morning to come. This is a day of profound, in my view, profound weight and profound power,” Biden said prior to signing the bill into law. “The day in which you remember the moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take. What I’ve long called ‘America’s original sin.'”
Juneteenth is already celebrated across America and honors the official end of slavery in Confederate states on June 19, 1865 – the day that the Emancipation Proclamation reached a remote area of Texas. While former President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, many slaves only learned that they were free after the Civil War ended.
Just months into his time in office, Biden said he knew signing the Juneteenth bill into law will be “one of the greatest honors” he will have as president. This is the first federal holiday to be created in nearly four decades. The last federal holiday to be established – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – occurred under former President Ronald Reagan in 1983.
The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act passed 415 to 14 in the House on Wednesday. The 14 “no” votes all came from Republicans. The Senate passed the legislation unanimously Tuesday. (RELATED: Democrats Introduce Bill Expanding 13th Amendment)
Vice President Kamala Harris took a look back at history as she delivered remarks prior to the signing.
“We are gathered here in a house built by enslaved people,” Vice President Kamala Harris said at the White House. “We are footsteps away from where President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. And we are here to witness President Joe Biden establish Juneteenth as a national holiday. We have come far and we have far to go, but today is a day of celebration. It is not only a day of pride, it is also a day for us to reaffirm, and rededicate ourselves to action.”
Biden noted that Juneteenth “represents not only the commemoration of the end of slavery in America … but the ongoing work to have to bring true equity and racism justice to American society.”
The president touched on voting rights during his remarks as well, declaring them as “under attack” and saying it “offends the very democracy.” He said that despite progress, the “promise of America for all people” cannot be fulfilled with voting rights being attacked due to “restrictive laws, threats of intimidation, voting purges and more.”
“In short, this day doesn’t just celebrate the past. It calls for action today,” Biden said.