Members of Congress are now introducing new legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Juneteenth celebrations started on June 19, 1965, with the freed slaves of Galveston, Texas. Union soldiers told enslaved African Americans in Galveston that the Civil War had ended, and they were free.
On Thursday, U.S. Senator John Corryn, a Republican from Texas, announced that he would be introducing a bipartisan bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
On Friday, Congresswoman Shiela Jackson Lee (TX-18) and Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07) announced the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, H.R. 7232, to designate June 19 a federal holiday every year.
“Juneteenth represents the promise of equality, opportunity, and freedom. In the 155 years since the announcement of freedom and equal rights in Texas, we Americans have struggled to make that promise a reality for all,” said Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher. “I am committed to continuing the work and the fight for equality and justice.”
Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday when state Rep. Al Edwards wrote and sponsored House Bill 1016 in 1979.
As of right now, 46 states and the District of Columbia observe Juneteenth in some capacity.
“As we do every year, tomorrow Texans will celebrate Juneteenth and the 155th anniversary of the end of slavery in our state. It’s an opportunity to reflect on our history, the mistakes we have made, but yet how far we’ve come in the fight for equality, and a reminder of just how far we still have to go,” Sen. Cornyn said Thursday. “That is especially true this year. Over the last several weeks, Americans of all races and backgrounds, of all ages, have raised their voice in the fight against inequality and injustice that continues to exist in our society.”
Prominent companies such as Google, Target, and the NFL have decided to observe Juneteenth as a recognized holiday.