The Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would make “Juneteenth,” the day celebrating the emancipation of slaves, a federal holiday.
The upper chamber unanimously passed the bill and now a similar bill will be voted on in the House, The Hill reported.
“The freedom of all Americans that Texas celebrates every Juneteenth should be celebrated all across the nation,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the lead GOP sponsor, said in a statement. “The passage of this bill represents a big step in our nation’s journey toward equality. I thank my colleagues in the Senate for their support, and my fellow Texans who have been celebrating this important holiday for more than a century.”
Juneteenth as the commemorative date became known, is the date that marks the true end of slavery in the United States.
According to Britanica.com, although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, news of it did not reach Texas until more than two years later when union troops entered Galveston on June 19, 1865, and informed the residents that slavery was abolished.
"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” Union Major General Gordon Granger read to the people of Galveston. “This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer."
The news was greeted by former slaves with dancing, prayer, feasting and music.
The first anniversary of that day was the first Juneteenth celebration in Texas and the commemoration eventually made its way into other states.
Texas made the day a state holiday in 1980.
A recent poll found that 35 percent of Americans want Juneteenth to be a national holiday with only 25 percent against it, according to The Hill.
Forty percent of Americans did not have an opinion either way.
The poll was conducted between May 18-23 with a sample of 3,572 adults and had a margin of error of +/- 2 percent.
Considered the oldest commemoration of slavery’s end, Juneteenth “commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics, and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future. Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long overdue,” the Juneteenth.com website said.
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