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Biden signs bill into law making Juneteenth a national holiday

President Joe Biden said that signing legislation into law on Thursday establishing June 19 as ...

Posted: Jun 17, 2021 3:40 PM
Updated: Jun 17, 2021 4:45 PM

President Joe Biden said that signing legislation into law on Thursday establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day -- a US federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States -- will go down as 'one of the greatest honors' of his presidency.

'I have to say to you, I've only been president for several months, but I think this will go down, for me, as one of the greatest honors I will have as president,' Biden said at the White House during a signing ceremony.

'I regret that my grandchildren aren't here, because this is a really, really, really important moment in our history. By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history -- and celebrate progress and grapple with the distance we've come (and) the distance we have to travel,' Biden said.

The ceremony, which took place in the East Room, included some 80 members of Congress -- including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, local elected officials, community leaders and activists. The President specifically noted that Opal Lee, the activist who campaigned to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday, was in attendance.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas, in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Only a handful of states currently observe Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

Biden, speaking at the White House alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, repeated the sentiments he relayed when he commemorated the Tulsa race massacre earlier this year, that 'great nations don't ignore their most painful moments.'

'They embrace them. Great nations don't walk away. We've come to terms with the mistakes we made and in remembering those moments, we begin to heal and grow stronger,' the President said.

During the ceremony, the President said it was not enough to commemorate the holiday, but to use it as a day of reflection and action.

'We can't rest until the promise of equality if fulfilled for every one of us in every corner of this nation. That to me is the meaning of Juneteenth,' Biden said.

Biden also underscored how his White House agenda is working to deliver equality and emphasized that the promise of equality is not going to fulfilled 'so long as the sacred right to vote remains under attack.' The President specifically pointed to restrictive voter laws in some states, calling them 'an assault that offends our very democracy.'

The holiday is the first federal holiday established since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983 and becomes at least the eleventh federal holiday recognized by the US federal government. The US Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday that most federal employees will observe the holiday on Friday since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year.

The legislation, which was passed by Congress on Wednesday, gained momentum following Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd last year. It was also spurred after Democrats won the White House and control of the House of Representatives and the US Senate.

The bill passed the House on Wednesday with a 415-14 vote after the Senate unanimously passed the legislation the day before.

The bill had bipartisan sponsors that included Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

At the White House on Thursday, Biden lauded members of Congress for the bipartisan effort, saying, 'I hope this is the beginning of a change in the way we deal with one another.'

Lee told reporters ahead of the final passage of the bill, 'what I see here today is racial divide crumbling, being crushed this day under a momentous vote that brings together people who understand the value of freedom.'

The 14 Republicans who voted against the bill were Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin, Doug LaMalfa of California, Tom McClintock of California, Mike Rogers of Alabama, Matt Rosendale of Montana, Ronny Jackson of Texas, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Chip Roy of Texas and Paul Gosar of Arizona.

Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson had previously blocked the bill in 2020, saying that the day off for federal employees would cost US taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. But Johnson dropped his objection this week despite his concerns, which paved the way for the bill's passage in the Senate.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Thursday.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 343505

Reported Deaths: 7543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23932444
DeSoto23229283
Harrison20527329
Rankin15411291
Jackson15232252
Madison10959227
Lee10719179
Jones9047169
Forrest8723159
Lauderdale7884244
Lowndes7054151
Lamar702989
Lafayette6548124
Washington5595139
Pearl River5196152
Bolivar4954134
Oktibbeha494398
Panola4771112
Warren4728128
Marshall4701106
Pontotoc447773
Union433279
Monroe4330137
Neshoba4281181
Hancock428088
Lincoln4176116
Pike3667113
Leflore3627125
Tate353388
Alcorn350974
Sunflower347694
Scott341176
Adams340988
Yazoo339376
Copiah324968
Simpson322891
Itawamba314680
Coahoma314085
Tippah306568
Prentiss298863
Covington293484
Leake285475
Marion284181
Wayne277543
George272251
Grenada269488
Newton262364
Tishomingo239770
Winston236784
Jasper230648
Stone229637
Attala226373
Chickasaw219060
Holmes200174
Clay197654
Clarke186880
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181332
Smith179235
Yalobusha171540
Walthall145748
Lawrence142826
Greene140134
Amite137543
Noxubee135235
Perry133538
Montgomery133044
Carroll126431
Webster121232
Jefferson Davis116734
Tunica114227
Benton106725
Claiborne105331
Kemper102429
Humphreys100133
Franklin87923
Quitman84719
Choctaw82619
Wilkinson78032
Jefferson71328
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 577463

Reported Deaths: 11510
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson841981589
Mobile47171860
Madison37047533
Tuscaloosa26915465
Shelby26873256
Montgomery25918625
Baldwin24499328
Lee16949181
Calhoun15252332
Morgan15017290
Etowah14778370
Marshall12933235
Houston11774292
Elmore10761217
St. Clair10617252
Limestone10574158
Cullman10363205
Lauderdale10083254
DeKalb9382191
Talladega8836188
Walker7681287
Autauga7479114
Jackson7317117
Blount7266139
Colbert6635142
Coffee6163132
Dale5453117
Russell470642
Chilton4682117
Covington4649125
Franklin450081
Tallapoosa4440156
Escambia427882
Chambers3898125
Dallas3717163
Clarke367763
Marion3427106
Pike327879
Lawrence3225101
Winston294973
Bibb284565
Geneva276383
Marengo259967
Barbour246261
Pickens240062
Butler238272
Hale232778
Fayette225264
Henry209245
Monroe197241
Randolph196744
Cherokee196348
Washington180139
Macon168752
Crenshaw165558
Clay163759
Cleburne160245
Lamar149938
Lowndes144854
Wilcox130531
Bullock126142
Conecuh119630
Coosa116929
Perry109928
Sumter109032
Greene98736
Choctaw64325
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
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Hi: 96° Lo: 78°
Feels Like: 111°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
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Hi: 95° Lo: 78°
Feels Like: 110°
Oxford
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Hi: 95° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 103°
Starkville
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Feels Like: 102°
Very hot and very humid conditions linger in our area for our Saturday. However, the heat and humidity start to dwindle a bit as we go into our Sunday and beyond. As a matter of fact below normal high temperatures for this time of year.
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