Federal employees will be given off Friday in observance of Juneteenth, which marks the end of slavery in America.
The House and Senate this week both passed legislation to make June 19 a federal holiday. The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the bill into law Thursday afternoon during an event with Vice President Kamala Harris in the East Room, The Hill reported.
"Today @POTUS will sign the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, establishing June 19th as a federal holiday. As the 19th falls on a Saturday, most federal employees will observe the holiday tomorrow, June 18th," the Office of Personnel Management tweeted Thursday.
The House voted 415-14 on Wednesday to make June 19 a federal holiday. A day earlier, the Senate voted unanimously to approve the measure.
June 19, 1865 was the day when the last enslaved African Americans were ordered freed after Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, three years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Texas was the last Confederate state where the federal Army re-established its authority, and word of the Civil War’s end took two months to arrive.
Slavery in the U.S. was formally outlawed when the 13th Amendment was ratified in December 1865.
The votes to make Juneteenth a federal holiday followed a year focused on social injustice after the May 2020 death of of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.
"What I see here today is racial divide crumbling, being crushed this day under a momentous vote that brings together people who understand the value of freedom," bill sponsor Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, the sponsor of the bill, said at a Wednesday press conference before the House vote, The Hill reported
Although Democrats and Republicans have disagreed over how to address racism in other institutions, the push to make Juneteenth a federal holiday was bipartisan.
Several GOP members in both chambers cosponsored the legislation.
"The freedom of all Americans that Texas celebrates every Juneteenth should be celebrated all across the nation," Sen. John Cornyn, lead Republican sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said in a Tuesday 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."
Some of the 14 House Republicans who opposed the bill said they were concerned that calling the holiday "Juneteenth National Independence Day" would cause confusion with July 4 Independence Day.
Rep. Matthew Rosendale, R-Mont., said the bill was a weapon in the country's current culture war.
"[The bill 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, according to The Hill.
Juneteenth is the first federal holiday established by Congress since 1983, when lawmakers established Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to recognize the civil rights leader.
South Dakota is the only state that had not observed Juneteenth.
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