Juneteenth Gains Federal Holiday Status

Juneteenth National Independence Day, June 19, has been established as the 12th federal holiday. The bill passed unanimously on Tuesday in the U.S. Senate and in a 415-14 vote on Wednesday in the House of Representatives. It was yesterday signed into law by President Joe Biden. It is the first new holiday since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was signed into law in 1983. Juneteenth became a legal holiday in Wisconsin in 2009 under then-Governor Doyle, and, after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, a number of banks in Wisconsin have closed their lobbies and given employees time off in observance of the holiday. As the June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, most federal employees will observe the holiday today, June 18, however, when a holiday falls on a Saturday, the Fed does not observe it on the Friday before. U.S. stock markets are scheduled to remain open this year. 

On June 19, 1865, approximately two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after Confederates surrendered in April 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. Slavery was outlawed across the nation with the ratification of the 15th Amendment six months later. 

Juneteenth events will be taking place around Wisconsin this weekend. Other ways to commemorate Juneteenth include reading and tuning into dialogue surrounding race and equality, supporting Black-owned businesses, and donating to organizations that make a positive impact on Black communities.

In the words of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., “Of all Emancipation Day observances, Juneteenth falls closest to the summer solstice. . . the longest day of the year, when the sun, at its zenith, defies the darkness in every state, including those once shadowed by slavery. By choosing to celebrate the last place in the South that freedom touched — reflecting the mystical glow of history and lore, memory and myth, as Ralph Ellison evoked in his posthumous novel, Juneteenth — we remember the shining promise of emancipation, along with the bloody path America took by delaying it and deferring fulfillment of those simple, unanticipating words in Gen. Granger’s original order No. 3: that ‘This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.’”

By, Cassie Krause