President Joe Biden has declared June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, signing the bill on Thursday, two days after sailing through the Senate with a unanimous vote and one day after the legislation passed through the House of Representatives with a vote of 415-14. 

Juneteenth National Independence Day, also referred to as Jubilee Day or simply Juneteenth, commemorates the day on June 19, 1865, when the last Blacks were freed from enslavement in Galveston, Texas, over two years following the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. It is recognized as the second independence day of the United States and has been celebrated, primarily by Black communities, since the end of the Civil War. In more recent years, individual states have begun recognizing the holiday until now, as it is a federally recognized holiday. 

A holiday requiring explanation and context for many, various descriptions have been provided including the following: “Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery and should be celebrated by all Americans who value and believe in equality and dignity for all people,” stated Ashley Froehlich, advocate for progressive change residing in the rural Midwest. 

“For me this is nothing new,” explained resident Victoria McWane-Creek, who has celebrated Juneteenth her entire life. “It’s really nice that it has become a national day of commemoration.” McWane-Creek will be celebrating this year with her family in Chicago. 

“This day doesn’t just celebrate the past. It calls for action today,” Biden explained just before signing the bill.

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