The United States House of Representatives voted on June 16 to make Juneteenth (June 19) the 12th federal holiday. President Joe Biden signed the bill into law on June 17, making the movement official.
While the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect of freeing southern Black slaves on January 1, 1863, Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers finally brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas.
“This is a day of profound weight and profound power, a day in which we remember the moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take,” Biden said.
Since Juneteenth fell on a Saturday this year, the government would normally make Friday the day off of work. However, the suddenness of a new holiday right before the weekend it was to occur meant that a lot of federal agencies, banks and other businesses that would normally close were left open this year, making plans to close in future years.
President of Weber State University Brad Mortensen said that no adjustments would be made to the 2021 calendar for Juneteenth. The university will be working with the Utah System of Higher Education and the policies of the Utah Board of Higher Education to plan how the holiday will be observed in future years.
WSU has been involved throughout the month with a local Juneteenth freedom and heritage festival that included a State of Black Utah Town Hall Meeting on June 11; a virtual Juneteenth Film Festival on June 15; a flag raising ceremony on June 1; a Father’s Day Tribute festival on June 20; and a big festival including concerts, Mr. and Miss Juneteenth pageants and other activities on June 19.
The final Juneteenth event of the month will be a Black Business Expo at The Gateway on June 26.
The new federal holiday is the first since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983.