President Joe Biden has signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.
On Thursday (June 17), the president signed the bill, making Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, a federal holiday. “Juneteenth marks both a long, hard night of slavery and a promise of a brighter morning to come,” he said. “This is a day of profound wait and profound power. A day which you’ll remember the moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take. What I’ve long called America’s original sin.”
“Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments,” Biden added. “They don’t ignore those moments in the past. They embrace them. Great nations don’t walk away. We come to terms with the mistakes we made. And remembering those moments, we begin to heal and grow stronger.”
Elsewhere during his speech, Biden took the time to recognize Opal Lee, a 94-year-old Black woman who campaigned to make Juneteenth a national holiday. “Opal, you’re incredible. A daughter of Texas. Grandmother of the movement to make Juneteenth a federal holiday,” the president said.
He also shared some background on Lee’s story. When she was 12 years old, a white mob burned her family’s home. “Over the course of decades, she’s made it her mission to see that this day came,” Biden said. “It was almost a singular mission. She’s walked for miles and miles literally and figuratively to bring attention to Juneteenth.” He also asked those who were in the room to stand and give her a welcome to the White House.
The legislation to pass Juneteenth gained momentum following the murder of George Floyd last year. On Wednesday (June 16), Congress voted to make June 19 a federal holiday. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management stated that federal employees will observe the holiday on Friday (June 18) since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year.