WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed legislation Thursday establishing a new federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery, saying he believes it will go down as one of the greatest honors he has as president.
Biden signed into law a bill to make Juneteenth, or June 19, the 12th federal holiday. The House voted 415-14 on Wednesday to send the bill to Biden, while the Senate passed the bill unanimously the day before.
“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.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas — two months after the Confederacy had surrendered. That was also about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Southern states.
It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. One of the federal holidays, Inauguration Day, happens every four years.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which is the human resources office for the federal government, tweeted Thursday that most federal employees will observe the new holiday — Juneteenth National Independence Day — on Friday since June 19 falls on a Saturday this year.
Biden noted the overwhelming support for the bill from lawmakers in both parties.
“I hope this is the beginning of a change in the way we deal with one another," Biden said.
Biden signed the legislation surrounded by members of the Congressional Black Caucus as well as the lead sponsors of the legislation in the Senate, Sens. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and John Cornyn, R-Texas. He was introduced by Vice President Kamala Harris, the nation's first African-American vice president.
“We have come far and we have far to go, but today is a day of celebration," Harris said.
The White House moved quickly after the House debated the bill and then voted for it.
"Our federal holidays are purposely few in number and recognize the most important milestones," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. "I cannot think of a more important milestone to commemorate than the end of slavery in the United States."
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, speaking next to a large poster of a Black man whose back bore massive scarring from being whipped, said she would be in Galveston on Saturday to celebrate along with Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
"Can you imagine?" said Jackson Lee. "I will be standing maybe taller than Sen. Cornyn, forgive me for that, because it will be such an elevation of joy."
The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday under a unanimous consent agreement that expedites the process for considering legislation. It takes just one senator's objection to block such agreements.
The vote comes as lawmakers struggle to overcome divisions on police reform legislation following the killing of George Floyd by police and as Republican state legislators push what experts say is an unprecedented number of bills aimed at restricting access to the ballot box. While Republicans say the goal is to prevent voter fraud, Democrats contend that the measures are aimed at undermining minority voting rights.
Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus went to the floor to speak in favor of the bill. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., said she viewed Juneteenth as a commemoration rather than a celebration because it represented something that was delayed in happening.
"It also reminds me of what we don't have today," she said. "And that is full access to justice, freedom and equality. All these are often in short supply as it relates to the Black community."
The 14 House Republicans who voted against the bill are Andy Biggs of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Ronny Jackson of Texas, Doug LaMalfa of California, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Tom McClintock of California, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Mike Rogers of Alabama, Matt Rosendale of Montana, Chip Roy of Texas and Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin.
How some companies are celebrating Juneteenth
The e-commerce giant is sponsoring several Juneteenth events this weekend, including the inaugural Juneteenth Unityfest, a series of musical performances, speeches and other live shows that will be livestreamed nationwide on Saturday.
Amazon Books and the company's 4-Star brick and mortar stores are also featuring a selection of books highlighting the history of Juneteenth. The company's Prime Video platform will feature a landing page with a curated selection of movies and series acknowledging and honoring the holiday.
"The collection celebrates Black Excellence, and includes Amazon Originals such as 'Small Axe' and 'The Underground Railroad,'" a company spokesperson said via email.
Amazon recently donated $1 million to 13 Seattle-based community organizations that support communities of color. The company says the funds will help sustain active programs relating to equity and social justice, youth development, arts & culture, and sustainability.
The iPhone maker is giving U.S. corporate employees a day off on Friday.
"Apple is honoring this day of freedom through week-long events for employees that are designed to educate, build community, and celebrate," the company said in an emailed statement.
Apple retail stores and support centers will maintain regular operating hours over the weekend.
The Dallas-based global telecom conglomerate is encouraging employees to take time off in observance of Juneteenth if they choose.
The company's chief diversity and development officer Corey Anthony is also sharing a video blog to raise awareness about the holiday.
"We recognize the importance of June 19 and everything it stands for and we urge our employees to become educated on its history and significance," an AT&T spokesperson said via email.
AT&T owns WarnerMedia, CNN's parent company.
Beginning on Thursday, Chipotle is giving customers an opportunity to help close the racial wealth gap by donating to Project 10X, an initiative for racial equity created by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the nation's largest community development financial institution.
"[Customers] can round up with change to the next highest dollar amount when ordering from the Chipotle app or Chipotle.com," the company said via email.
One of the Mexican grill restaurant chain's employee resource groups is hosting activities designed to advance inclusion, access and awareness throughout the month of June. The activities include a Financial Wellness Series and a "Black is...Black Ain't," documentary discussion.
Thurgood Marshall College Fund students will take over the Citi Foundation's Instagram account to celebrate Juneteenth on Saturday.
Late last year, the bank created a paid day off holiday option called Heritage Day. Its U.S. employees can use their Heritage Day option to celebrate Juneteenth or any holiday "that is most meaningful to them," according to the company.
Facebook employees will have the option to take a paid day off of work on Friday.
The social media giant is hosting a company-wide Juneteenth Day of Learning event on the same day. Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Tina Knowles-Lawson and other prominent figures will share perspectives on the significance of Juneteenth with Facebook staffers who choose to attend.
GM is commemorating Juneteenth as a day of service for its workers.
"Our Juneteenth programming will focus on allyship and storytelling through volunteering and community engagement, hosting internal conversations about the history of Juneteenth, sharing thoughtful employee reflections on what this day means to them," a company spokesperson said via email.
The automaker is also a sponsor of the Juneteenth Foundation's Freedom Festival. The two-day virtual event will begin with a series of Juneteenth reflection panels on Friday and end with a virtual Freedom Concert Saturday night.
Google is eliminating meetings on Friday to honor Juneteenth. The company is also hosting a two-hour event, spotlighting Black music, history and storytelling. The event will feature a performance and conversation with Grammy Award winning singer Erykah Badu.
The gig app company is observing Juneteenth as company holiday and a "day of reflection" on Friday.
Corporate employees in the United States and Canada will be given a paid day off. An Instacart employee resource group will be hosting a "Juneteenth Cel-Liberation" event celebrating Black Cinema and discussing the accomplishments of prominent Black figures in film and television.
Lyft is one of several companies honoring Juneteenth as a paid day off for the second consecutive year. The rideshare company's employees won't have to come into work on Friday.
Lyft executives are also participating in a roundtable discussion about Juneteenth, voting rights and allyship this week along with NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson and National Coalition on Black Civic Participation President and CEO Melanie Campbell.
"We encourage team members to use this day to reflect, participate in civic engagement, or leverage anti-discrimination resources to deepen understanding of the work still needed to support the Black community," the company said via email.
The Seattle-based Windows software maker is honoring Juneteenth on Monday (June 21) by inviting all its global employees to join in a day of "exploration, learning, and engagement."
"Recognizing this day with intention allows us to stay connected to the many challenges unresolved, violence unaddressed, and inequities unchanged for the Black and African American community worldwide," Microsoft chief diversity officer Lindsay-Rae McIntyre said via email. "Our approach is not to offer a vacation day, but instead use this day to create time and space for employees to better understand critical topics related to race, ethnicity and racial injustice."
Nike made Juneteenth an annual paid holiday for the first time last year.
The company's corporate offices and its Converse distribution centers will be closed on Friday in honor of Juneteenth. Its retail stores and distribution centers will also be closed on Saturday.
"Nike aspires to be a leader in building diverse and inclusive communities, from embedding diversity, equity and inclusion education in every employee's journey to leveraging our platform to inspire positive change in our communities," the company said via email.
The exercise equipment and media company is giving employees a paid day off to celebrate Juneteenth on Friday.
"Our field teams will observe it on Saturday," a Peloton spokesperson said via email.
Peloton is also offering users a selection of Juneteenth-themed fitness classes on Saturday.
The Smithsonian Channel
On Wednesday, the Smithsonian Channel unveiled a series of video essays featuring prominent writers, artists, activists, community leaders and teachers discussing Juneteenth. The network said three of the videos will air on the Smithsonian Channel. The others will be featured on the company's social media sites.
The Smithsonian Channel will also air a six-part docuseries called "Boiling Point" from 1-11pm on Saturday. The Viacom-owned TV network says "Boiling Point" examines the history of systemic racism and police brutality in America.
The coffeemaker said scheduled hourly employees at its stores, distribution centers and plants will receive 1.5 times their regular wage on Saturday in recognition of the holiday.
"Salaried partners required to work will receive a holiday in lieu, and support partners will receive the day off with regular pay," Starbucks said. "We are also taking the time to pause and reflect on this important moment of history by learning and sharing resources from third parties."
Twitter made Juneteenth a company holiday in the U.S. last year. The social media site's employees will celebrate the holiday at work on Friday and on Twitter's website on Saturday.
"On the platform we will engage in community and conversation, and we hope people will join us by using #Juneteenth and #HappyJuneteenth to unlock our custom emoji," the company said via email. "We're also planning other activities on-platform with our community partners to amplify conversations around Juneteenth."
Twitter also said it supports making Juneteenth a federal holiday in the United States.
The telecom giant says employees can use allotted paid time off to celebrate Juneteenth if they choose.
"For employees who choose to work on Juneteenth, we celebrate and recognize Juneteenth company-wide through a series of employee events," the company told CNN Business via email.
On Friday, two of Verizon's senior executive leaders will discuss the historical significance of Juneteenth during a noon ET panel that the company will broadcast internally to employees. The company's Black Originators Leaders and Doers employee resource group is hosting a separate "Beyond the Conversation" panel event the same day. The second panel will highlight the contributions of Black women-owned businesses.
Verizon is also hosting a "Soul of America" event discussing the impacts of slavery and the societal progress that has occurred over the last year. The event will also celebrate the role food plays in Black culture.
Some Verizon employees will participate in OneUnited Bank's "One Transaction" free virtual conference on financial literacy. The event will focus on closing the wealth gap. Actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish is one of the featured speakers.
Wells Fargo's employees have the option to use one of two personal holidays or allotted paid time off to celebrate Juneteenth this weekend.
Retail bank employees can use the personal holidays/PTO pending manager approval, the company said via email.
The bank's Black and African-American Connection Employee Resource Network has been hosting a series of Juneteenth events this week.
"We hope employees will take time to learn more about the significance of Juneteenth and consider what each of us can do to enrich the American experience for all people," the company said.
CEO Rich Barton's digital real estate marketplace added Juneteenth to its holiday calendar last year. The company said it is also giving employees a paid day off on Friday.
"Employees are encouraged to take the day for reflection, volunteerism, education, and activism to commemorate the end of slavery in the US," Zillow senior manager of equity & belonging Jackie Turner told CNN Business via email.
Zilllow launched a Juneteenth 2021 resource page on June 10 and hosted a Juneteenth virtual read-along for employees and their children on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Zillow's Black African Ancestry Network, an employee resource group, hosted an hour-long Juneteenth music celebration.