Congress Votes to Make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The House voted 415 to 14 to make Juneteenth a federal holiday on Wednesday, one day after the Senate unanimously approved the measure.

Juneteenth commemorates the Union Army declaration of the end of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865. President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation over two years earlier, in the midst of the Civil War.

The votes in Congress mark the first establishment of a new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was proclaimed in 1983.

“Juneteenth is a recognition that darkness can come to light, that there is a celebration as my forefathers and mothers struggled to endure the horror they experienced,” Representative Danny K. Davis (D., Ill.) said following the House vote. “And so celebrating Juneteenth as a national holiday is simply an idea whose time has come.”

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The push to recognize Juneteenth gained steam in the wake of massive demonstrations against police brutality in summer 2020, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Fourteen House Republicans opposed the initiative, with Representative Matt Rosendale (R., Mont.) connecting the holiday to critical race theory before the vote.

“Let’s call an ace an ace. This is an effort by the Left to create a day out of whole cloth to celebrate identity politics as part of its larger efforts to make Critical Race Theory the reigning ideology of our country,” Rosendale said in a statement.

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