Washington — Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) today celebrated the U.S. Senate unanimous consent passage of their legislation, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. “Juneteenth,” observed on June 19, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States and is also known as Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, and Juneteenth Independence Day. On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, which announced that, in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation, “all slaves are free.”
“For far too long, the story of our country’s history has been incomplete as we have failed to acknowledge, address, and come to grips with our nation’s original sin of slavery,” said Senator Markey. “Today’s Senate passage of our legislation to commemorate Juneteenth as a federal holiday will address this long-ignored gap in our history, recognize the wrong that was done, acknowledge the pain and suffering of generations of slaves and their descendants, and finally celebrate their freedom. The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act gives recognition and voice to those who suffered and finally makes this day of celebration, liberation, and hope a federal holiday. I thank Senators Smith, Cornyn, Booker, Warnock, and the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation for working so hard to make this holiday a reality.”
“Juneteenth is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the US, and it should have been a national public holiday long ago. But we got it done in the Senate,” said Senator Smith. “I want to thank Miss Opal Lee, who walked across this country to raise support for Juneteenth as a national holiday. I’ve been honored to support your moral cause here in the Senate with Senators Markey and Booker, and all our colleagues. Our country has a lot of work ahead to eradicate the trauma and impact of systemic racism, and Juneteenth is an important step on this journey.”
“Today is a significant moment in American history,” said Senator Booker. “Although our nation still has a long way to go to reckon with and overcome the dark legacy of slavery, the passage of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act represents a meaningful step forward in the journey of healing America is still reckoning with. I applaud my colleagues here in the Senate for passing this critical legislation and look forward to seeing it move to the House floor and one step closer to becoming a reality.”
“The freedom of all Americans that Texas celebrates every Juneteenth should be celebrated all across the nation,” said Senator Cornyn. “The passage of this bill represents a big step in our nation’s journey toward equality. I thank my colleagues in the Senate for their support, and my fellow Texans who have been celebrating this important holiday for more than a century.”
“The overwhelming bipartisan support to make Juneteenth a national holiday is a reminder of what our country is capable of when we don’t allow divisions to censor our past or stymie our march towards progress. I’m glad the Senate was able to come together to get this done,” said Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock.
“I am pleased to join in celebrating the U.S. Senate unanimous consent passage of theJuneteenth National Independence Day Act, to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Juneteenth honors the end of the years of suffering and brutality that African Americans endured under slavery, America’s original sin, and celebrates the legacy of perseverance that has become the hallmark of the African American experience in the struggle for equality. These values are shared by millions of Americans who over generations have held fast to the promise of this nation while struggling for basic human rights,” said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. “Juneteenth celebrates African American freedom while encouraging self-development and respect for all cultures. But it must always remain a reminder to us all that liberty and freedom are the precious birthright of all Americans which must be jealously guarded and preserved for future generations. As it takes on a more national and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all our roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing. This is why we must establish the Juneteenth Independence Day as a national holiday. And today we also must pay special tribute to Opal Lee, the Mother of Juneteenth, and the late Texas State Representative Al Edwards, the Father of Juneteenth!”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) re-introduced the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act this February. Juneteenth is currently recognized by 47 states and the District of Columbia as an official state holiday or observance. In 1980, Texas was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday.
Organizations that endorsed the legislation include the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, the Leadership Conference on Civil Human Rights, NAACP, Spotify, U.S. Travel Association, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
“Juneteenth is an important day to celebrate freedom and the end of slavery in the United States, and it is fitting that it is designated a federal holiday. We applaud the Senate for acting, and encourage the House to follow suit. But holidays alone are not enough – there is still much work to be done to build equity, to undo systemic racism, to atone for centuries of brutal treatment of enslaved Africans in America and their descendants,” said Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“As Mark Twain once said, travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “The travel industry stands in solidarity with those seeking unity and a more inclusive understanding of our shared history, and we thank Senators Markey, Cornyn, Smith, Rubio, and Booker for their leadership to make Juneteenth Independence Day a Federal holiday.”
“The hotel and lodging industry takes the issue of diversity and inclusion in our workforce very seriously. We are proud to be in the business of people taking care of people and always strive to represent a community as global as our guests. To meet this goal, The AHLA Foundation has enacted a bold, $5 million commitment and 5-year action plan to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the industry. We applaud the Senate for passing The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, introduced thanks to the continued leadership by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). This important legislation is rooted in the spirit of hospitality and furthers these industry efforts to strengthen businesses, elevate employees, and better serve our communities,” said Brian Crawford, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
“As the nation reckons with the racial injustices and hard truths of its past and present, it is of utmost importance that Juneteenth receives rightful recognition as a federal holiday. Spotify commends the bipartisan leadership of Senators Markey, Cornyn, Booker, Smith, and Warnock in honoring the Black community and our collective history with this designation as we strive to create a more perfect Union,” said Horacio Gutierrez, Head of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer at Spotify.