US Congress passes bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday

Photo: AP In this June 19, 2020, file photo, protesters chant as they march after a Juneteenth rally at the Brooklyn Museum, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

The US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to create a federal holiday commemorating Juneteenth, news wires reported. Until now it was the unofficial fete marking the end of slavery in the United States. The measure cleared the Senate by unanimous consent on Tuesday after a Republican in the chamber ended his objection. With the House passing it in a 415-14 vote, the bill now heads to President Joe Biden for his signature, AFP reported.

Most US states recognise Juneteenth as a holiday or officially observe the day, but the bill passed by Congress would make Juneteenth the 12th US federal holiday -- and the first new one in 38 years.

The commemoration has taken on renewed resonance over the past year with millions of Americans confronting the country's living legacy of racial injustice.

Juneteenth National Independence Day is commemorated on 19 June to celebrate the day in 1865 when the last enslaved African Americans learned that they were free. A Union Army general in Galveston, Texas -- where president Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1862 had yet to be enforced nearly three years later -- announced that slavery was abolished in Texas and across the country.

"This day reminds us of a history much stained by brutality and injustice, and it reminds us of our responsibility to build a future of progress for all, honoring the ideal of equality that is America's heritage, and America's hope," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.


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