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Juneteenth, a new national holiday, marks slavery's end after the Civil War


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A new federal holiday was marked Friday with a day off for government workers. Congress voted last week to commemorate June 19, known as Juneteenth, as the day U.S. slavery ended in 1865. Many states have recognized Juneteenth for decades, but only some observe it as an official holiday. President Biden on Thursday signed legislation passed unanimously by senators and by 415-14 in the House, creating the 11th holiday recognized by the federal government as a paid day off for its workers. "his will go down for me as one of the greatest honors I will have as president," the president said at the White House.

The day also is called Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day and Juneteenth Independence Day. Its name comes from the June date when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army issued an order in Galveston, Texas, announcing that "all slaves are free" in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier from President Abraham Lincoln. Texas was the last Southern state taking that step after the April 1865 surrender of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified near the end of 1865, abolishing slavery in three non-Confederate states not covered by Lincoln’s order during the Civil War.

The push for designation as a national holiday had been building for years. It's already celebrated symbolically in 47 states and the District of Columbia. Amid protests against police brutality last year, dozens of companies (including the National Football League) let employees take Juneteenth off with pay, and the push for federal recognition gained momentum.

Vice president says: "We have come far and we have far to go, but today is a day of celebration. ... We are gathered here in a house built by enslaved people." – Kamala Harris at White House signing ceremony Thursday

Galveston celebrates: The Texas city on Saturday had a three-hour parade and picnic. It also dedicated a large mural, "Absolute Equality," where Gen. Granger announced freedom for enslaved African Americans.

Scholar says: "Juneteenth, in both its historical origins and contemporary resurgence, brings us closer to some uncomfortable truths about American identity." – Peniel E. Joseph, University of Texas public affairs professor

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for, Copyright 2021

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