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Juneteenth becomes the nation’s 11th annual federal holiday

President Biden signed the measure into law Thursday ahead of Saturday’s holiday.
Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 7:31 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Juneteenth celebrations are kicking off in Washington, D.C and across the nation to celebrate what many Black Americans call “Freedom Day.” It comes as President Joe Biden officially makes the day a federal holiday.

With the stroke of his pen, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law on Thursday. Its purpose is to officially commemorate the end of slavery.

“On a national level we’re being recognized,” said Elijah Sellers, a rising senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. “We’re being celebrated for our history.”

Elijah Sellers is a native of Princeville, North Carolina.

“It means so much to many small-town Black folks who continue to see these injustices unfold on a daily basis,” Sellers said.

Princeville is the oldest town in the United States, initially founded as “Freedom Hill” by freed Blacks in 1865 following the Civil War.

“We look at it as a time that we can be proud of the fact that you see us,” said Princeville’s Mayor Pro Tem Linda Joyner.

Some Congressional lawmakers agree. The measure cleared the Senate on Tuesday, then the House on Wednesday.

“It feels important right now after the trauma of this last year, and the moment of racial reckoning we’ve gone through throughout this country,” said Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN).

Despite voting in favor, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) voiced his opposition ahead of this week’s vote.

He said in a statement, “It still seems strange having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery.”

Juneteenth is now the nation’s 11th annual federal holiday.

The last time a federal holiday was created was in 1983 for Martin Luther King Day.

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