In what was a rare bi-partisan victory, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday, commemorating June 19, 1865, the day on which the last of enslaved black people learned that they had been freed.
“Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a major step forward to recognise the wrongs of the past, but we must continue to work to ensure equal justice and fulfil the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our Constitution,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer.
Said U.S. Rep Val Demings, “Let us celebrate Juneteenth as we should, but celebrating freedom must be more than just a special day. It must be a celebration of who as a nation we say we are. One who says we believe in justice for all.”
“Long overdue,” tweeted California Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “Now let’s pass it in the House.”
The bill was sponsored by Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn and Massachusetts Democratic Senator Edward Markey, who both posted the news on social media following its passage.
“We have a long road towards racial justice in the United States and we cannot get there without acknowledging our nation’s original sin of slavery,” Markey tweeted. “It is long past time to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.”
“Happy that my bill to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday just passed the Senate,” Cornyn posted. “It has been a state holiday in Texas for more than 40 years. Now more than ever, we need to learn from our history and continue to form a more perfect union.”
Fact is, 48 states and the District of Columbia observe Juneteenth in some form, but it is a paid holiday in just four states: Texas, New York, Virginia and Washington.
Some corporations—like Nike, Twitter and Uber— followed suit, making it a paid holiday.
Though it is not an official, paid holiday in California, Governor Gavin Newsom has said that it could happen in the future.
In the meantime, the bill, which would make Juneteenth the nation’s 12th federal holiday, will now make its way to the House of Representatives where Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee introduced a partner bill that presently has over 150 co-sponsors. Should the legislation pass in the house, it will move on to the desk of President Joe Biden.