Juneteenth commemorates Freedom Day when on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, Union Army General Gordon Granger read aloud the contents of “General Order No. 3”, announcing the total emancipation of those held as slaves in states then in rebellion against the United States. This was almost two and a half years following the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln. Also called Jubilee Day, African Americans call this day Juneteenth.
On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act (P.L. 117- 71) into law. It had passed the Senate on June 15 and the House of Representatives on June 16. The act amends Section 6103(a), Title 5 of the United States Code to designate June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day
In the 117th Congress, two companion bills—H.R. 1320 and S. 475—were both introduced on February 25, 2021. In the 116th Congress (2019-2020), legislation was introduced to create a federal holiday and the House and Senate also agreed to resolutions honoring Juneteenth. Legislation to designate Juneteenth as a federal holiday had not been introduced prior to the 116th Congress.
After he signed P.L. 117-17 (S. 475) into law, President Biden issued a proclamation to celebrate the observance of Juneteenth. In part, the proclamation read
On June 19, 1865—nearly nine decades after our Nation’s founding, and more than 2 years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation—enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas, finally received word that they were free from bondage. As those who were formerly enslaved were recognized for the first time as citizens, Black Americans came to commemorate Juneteenth with celebrations across the country, building new lives and a new tradition that we honor today. In its celebration of freedom, Juneteenth is a day that should be recognized by all Americans. And that is why I am proud to have consecrated Juneteenth as our newest national holiday.
On June 17, 2021, the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued guidance on the recognition of Juneteenth National Independence Day in the federal workplace. In addition to providing guidance on the application of the federal holiday to various employment categories, OPM noted that Juneteenth fell on a Saturday in 2021, and that the holiday would be observed on Friday, June 18, the same “in lieu of” policy employed when other federal holidays fall on a weekend.
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