Booker, Jackson Lee reintroduce bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday

Juneteenth is currently recognized by 47 states and the District of Columbia

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Four lawmakers have reintroduced a bill that would make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

On Thursday, Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass), Tina Smith (D-Minn), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) reintroduced the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act which would recognize Juneteenth as a paid 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.” 

Read More: GOP Sen. Ron Johnson blocks bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday

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.

Senator Smith said of the legislation, “It’s long past time that we recognize Juneteenth—the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the US—as a federal holiday. Last year we introduced the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, and while it was blocked on the Senate floor, we’re not backing down. This is a bill with ample bipartisan support and I will keep fighting until it becomes law.”

Senate Democrats pushed to make Juneteenth a national holiday last summer after then-Senator Kamala Harris announced a proposal in June, theGrio reported. Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee introduced corresponding legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Together with my colleagues Cory Booker, Tina Smith, and Ed Market, we are proposing that Juneteenth be a national holiday,” Harris said at the time, “And we are dropping that bill saying that Juneteenth should be a national holiday.”

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“We commemorate Juneteenth as the day that word of emancipation finally reached enslaved people in Texas in 1865, but we know the struggle for true Black liberation continues,” said Senator Markey in a statement on Thursday. 

“For too long, we have tried to whitewash our nation’s history instead of confronting the uncomfortable and painful truth. This legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday is but one step we can take to begin to right the wrongs of the past and ensure equal justice in the future,” Markey continued.

Jackson-Lee noted that Juneteenth “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.”

A copy of the legislation can be found here.

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