Senate passes bill to make Juneteenth federal holiday, memorializing end of slavery

Several states have already recognized Juneteenth as an official holiday.
Black Lives Matter and Juneteenth march in New York City.

The Senate has passed a resolution to establish June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

The resolution on Tuesday passed unanimously passed in the congressional upper chamber and is expected to pass the Democratic-majority House, which would send it to President Joseph Biden to be signed.

"Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a major step forward to recognize the wrongs of the past," said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, according to the Associated Press. "But we must continue to work to ensure equal justice and fulfill the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our Constitution."

The bill would make Juneteenth the 12th federal holiday. The holiday commemorated when the last enslaved Americans learned they were free – on June 19, 1865 – after Union soldiers brought news of the Emancipation Proclamation to Galveston, Texas, at the end of the Civil War.

"We have a long road towards racial justice in the United States, and we cannot get there without acknowledging our nation’s original sin of slavery. It is long past time to make Juneteenth a federal holiday," Democratic Sen. Edward Markey, the sponsor of the bill, said Monday.

Many states already recognize Juneteenth as a holiday including Texas, New York, Virginia and Washington, where it is a paid holiday for state employees.