WASHINGTON, D.C. — Juneteenth is now officially a federal holiday.
President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law Thursday afternoon. He and Vice President Kamala Harris also delivered remarks at the signing event held in the East Room of the White House.
Juneteenth is observed on June 19 every year. It commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. and is also known as Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, and Juneteenth Independence Day.
The holiday dates back to June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3 in Galveston. The order let the slaves of Texas know they were free, in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation.
The U.S. House overwhelmingly passed the legislation to mark the federal holiday on Wednesday, a day after the U.S. Senate gave its approval.
This is the first time in nearly 40 years that the U.S. has recognized a new federal holiday. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was the last added in 1983. There are now 12 federal holidays.
By making it a federal holiday, the bill only guarantees federal workers will get Juneteenth off. There is no requirement that private businesses give employees the day off. While many are celebrating Congress’ move, others are critical, saying it’s largely symbolic and more concrete things could be done to assist the African American community.
IN GREAT FALLS: On Saturday, June 19, from 1 – 5 p.m., there will be a celebration of "Juneteenth" in the bandshell area of Gibson Park.
The free event will include a proclamation from the Mayor; a historical overview; speakers from the YWCA, the Great Falls Public Library, and Malmstrom Air Force Base; and The Alexander Temple’s New Birth Choir. There will also be a DJ from Malmstrom AFB playing music, and the Voyagers baseball team mascot Orbit will be there.
Event organizers said in an email: "It’s a time to enjoy great food, good music, and fun games as families, friends, and community members. And to celebrate the tie that truly binds us all as Americans: our freedom."
If you would like more information, call Susie McIntyre at 406-453-0181, or Mary Moe at 406-868-9427. The event is being organized by the YWCA of Great Falls, the Great Falls Public Library, and NeighborWorks Great Falls.