WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden will sign a bill into law on Thursday afternoon to make June 19 a federal holiday commemorating the end of the legal enslavement of Black Americans.
The bill, which was passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday after a unanimous vote in the Senate, marks the day in 1865 when a Union general informed a group of enslaved people in Texas that they had been made free two years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War.
The White House will hold a signing ceremony with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at 3:30 p.m. ET (1930 GMT).
The law comes a year after the United States was rocked by protests against racism and policing following the murder of George Floyd, an African-American man, by a Minneapolis police officer.
Juneteenth will be the eleventh federally recognized holiday, joining a list that includes Christmas, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Independence Day, as well as days honoring presidents and slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Federal employees will start taking the holiday off this year, observing it on Friday since Juneteenth falls on Saturday, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said on Twitter.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Heather Timmons; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)