New Federal Holiday and Flag Observance: Juneteenth
Juneteenth (June 19, officially Juneteenth National Independence Day) celebrates the formal end of slavery in the United States. It is a state observance in several states already, first made a state holiday in 1980 in Texas.
After the Civil War was already over, slave holders refused to release their slaves in Texas. The United States responded by sending the US Army to Galveston, to force the release of those still held in bondage by slaveholders.
The last slaves freed were in 1866, by the so-called Five Civilised Tribes (Native American tribes which held slaves and sided with the Confederacy).
Juneteenth was first celebrated in Texas in 1866. Other dates in other states were gradually merged into the Texas date. As of 2019, forty-seven states and the District of Columbia recognise Juneteenth as an official observance, though Texas is the only state to make an official paid holiday of the day.
The only states which do not recognise Juneteenth are North and South Dakota.
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln, but only applied to states in rebellion. Slavery was not finally abolished in Kentucky and Delaware until the XIII Amendment to the United States Constitution (abolishing chattel slavery) on December 13, 1865.
The bill was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, and an overwhelming majority in the House (there were fourteen votes against it). President Joseph Biden just signed the bill into law in a ceremony at the White House a few minutes ago.
The law takes effect immediately. As such, tomorrow (Friday) is the federal holiday observed, as June 19 falls on Saturday. The federal personnel office has already stated tomorrow is a day off for federal workers except those who are in critical positions (such as the military or medical personnel). Juneteenth becomes the fifth fixed-date federal holiday.
The US Flag Code encourages flying the flag every day, but especially on federal holidays. Juneteenth is a full-staff day, unless modified by presidential or gubernatorial proclamation.
The last federal holiday designated was Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday, in 1983