The law would give the day an equivalent status as Memorial Day , Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and other federal holidays.
Congressional leaders from both parties said that establishing the vacation was a crucial gesture in recognizing those that suffered under American slavery and as an act of racial reconciliation. Juneteenth would be the primary federal holiday to be created by Congress since 1983, when lawmakers designated the third Monday in January as Luther King Jr. Day, in honor of the slain civil-rights leader.
Juneteenth—also referred to as Emancipation Day, Black Independence Day and Jubilee Day—marks the 1865 date when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived with federal troops in Galveston, Texas, and issued an order freeing the nation’s last slaves. The ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in December 1865 abolished slavery throughout the whole country.
In June 2020, companies observed Juneteenth as a vacation for the primary time following nationwide protests calling for racial equality. Employees up and down the company ladder explain what they hope the day will achieve. Photo: Jake May/Associated Press
For employers, a key question would be whether to grant employees a paid time off . Although it might be observed for 2 million federal employees, not all state and native governments or private-sector employers would necessarily imitate .
About a third of 405 companies said they gave national holidays like Presidents time off . Fewer companies, or 13%, do so for Veterans Day, consistent with a survey conducted this year by employer consulting company Mercer LLC.
All states have observed Luther King Jr. Day since 2000. About 55% of companies give employees a paid time off , consistent with the Mercer survey. Juneteenth is observed at 9% of companies .
The survey also shows that more companies within the Northeast and West tend to watch those holidays than do those based within the South and Midwest.
Many companies say that recognizing Juneteenth as a workplace holiday demonstrates their commitment to battling racism.
What Is Juneteenth
Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and 19th, commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas—two months after the top of the war and over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves within the Southern states.
The day’s jubilation quickly became an annual celebration, consistent with Juneteenth.com, and grew with the increasing participation of descendants over the years. Some who had been enslaved made annual pilgrimages back to Galveston on June 19 with their descendants.
Groups just like the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation are pushing for Juneteenth, also referred to as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, to be recognized as a national day of observance for years.
Enshrining Juneteenth as a legal holiday “brings balance to American holiday celebrations,” Steve Williams, the foundation’s president, told Newsweek. “We weren’t free on the Fourth of July. Juneteenth freed the people, the Fourth of July freed the land.”
For activist Opal Lee, it had been a lifelong mission—five years ago, she walked from Fort Worth , Texas, to Washington, D.C., to urge lawmakers to form it happen.
While the bulk of U.S. states recognize Juneteenth as a vacation and most hold celebrations, a legal holiday was something 94-year-old Lee didn’t think she’d live to ascertain .
“I’ve got numerous different feelings all gurgling up in here,” Lee told CBS DFW. “I do not know what to call all of them . i’m so delighted to understand that suddenly we have got a Juneteenth. it isn’t a Texas thing or a Black thing. It’s an American thing.”
The effort to designate Juneteenth as a federal holiday gained renewed attention amid a national depending on race after widespread protests against racial injustice were triggered by the police killings of George Floyd and other Black people within the summer of 2020.
Nevertheless, an effort to pass the bill last year failed after Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, objected. He raised concerns about the estimated $600 million cost of providing another paid holiday for federal employees. Johnson relented in the week , clearing the way for the bill’s approval after it had been reintroduced in Congress this year.
“While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid day off is now required to celebrate the top of slavery, it’s clear that there’s no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter,” he said during a statement before the vote. “Therefore, I don’t shall object.”