Celebrating Juneteenth

June 19 is now Juneteenth National Independence Day, a U.S. federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. 

The bipartisan bill was signed into law on Thursday by President Biden, making Juneteenth is the first holiday to be approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established in 1983.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865: the day that Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and told slaves of their emancipation. That day came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. Even after Lincoln declared all enslaved people free on paper, that hadn’t necessarily been the case in practice.

In a speech after signing the bill into law, President Joe Biden said: “I hope this is the beginning of a change in the way we deal with one another. 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 but the distance we have to travel.”

“Juneteenth is not only a celebration of freedom, but also one of opportunity, equity and access,” says AFM Local 47 President Stephanie O’Keefe. “We are delighted and proud that this significant date in our nation’s history is finally receiving its proper recognition and amplification. While the fight for equity and justice for Black Americans continues today, we recognize the importance of honoring June 19 as a date for commemoration, reflection, and celebration.”

AFM Local 47 offices close early at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 18, in honor of the Juneteenth holiday.