The United States will soon have a new federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the nation.
Congress passed a bill that would make June 18, or June 19, a holiday, a bill that Joe Biden is expected to sign.
June 16th commemorates the day in 1865 when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached the people of Galveston, Texas, freeing slaves in the last rogue state. Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, freeing enslaved people in the southern states, and Confederate soldiers surrendered in April 1865. But the proclamation was not enforced in Galveston until federal soldiers read the proclamation. on June 19, 1865.
“Our federal holidays are deliberately few and they recognize the most important milestones,” said Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. “I can’t think of a more important milestone to commemorate than the end of slavery in the United States.”
Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas, speaking next to a large poster of a black man whose back bore massive scars from being spanked, said she would be in Galveston this Saturday to celebrate alongside Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas.
“You can imagine?” said Jackson Lee, who joked about his height. “I’ll be standing maybe taller than Senator Cornyn, forgive me for that, because it will be an elevation of joy.”
The Senate unanimously approved the measure yesterday and the House voted to pass the bill on Wednesday afternoon.
About 60% of Americans knew “nothing at all” or only “a little” about June 19th, according to a Gallup poll. released on tuesday. And the June 19th federal recognition comes as Republican officials across the country ban schools from teaching students. “critical race theory“, The History of Slavery and the Ongoing Impacts of Systemic Racism.
Congress voted overwhelmingly to make June a federal holiday. But let’s not forget that in Florida and Texas, educators are prohibited from teaching critical race theory, “wrote human rights defender Martin Luther King III, son of Martin Luther King Jr.” May June 19th be both a day of celebration and a day of educating our nation’s true history. “
For some critics, the move felt like an empty gesture. “No more performative gestures for June 18th,” said Janeese Lewis George, a board member for the District of Columbia. “Stop giving us things we don’t ask for and ignore the things that matter.”
Cori Bush, Democratic Representative from Missouri, called for broader reforms to address systemic racism.
Fourteen House Republicans opposed the effort. Congressman Matt Rosendale said the creation of the federal holiday was an effort to celebrate “identity politics.”
“Since I believe in treating everyone the same, regardless of race, and that we must focus on what unites us rather than our differences, I will vote no,” he said in a press release.
The vast majority of states recognize June 16 as a public holiday or have an official observance of the day, and most states hold celebrations. June 19th is a paid holiday for state employees in Texas, New York, Virginia, and Washington.
Under the law, the federal holiday would be known as the 16th National Independence Day.
Republican Congressman Clay Higgins said he would vote for the bill and supported establishing a federal holiday, but was upset that the name of the holiday included the word independence instead of emancipation.
“Why would the Democrats want to politicize this by co-opting the name of our holy holiday of Independence Day?” Higgins said.
“I want to say to my white colleagues on the other side, achieving their independence from being enslaved in a country is different from a country obtaining the independence to govern themselves,” Democratic Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence responded, adding: “We have a responsibility to teach every generation of black and white Americans the pride of a people who have survived, resisted, and triumphed in these United States of America despite slavery. ”