Biden and Harris stress history education as Juneteenth becomes federal holiday

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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris emphasized the importance of teaching black history before Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, a bill declaring June 19 a federal holiday to mark the end of slavery in the United States.

"Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments. They embrace them. Great nations don’t walk away. We come to terms with the mistakes we’ve made," Biden said Thursday in the White House's East Room.

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The president, who described the signing ceremony as "one of the greatest honors" of his term so far, went on to reference the need to secure voting access for many people in the U.S., including members of the black community.

Harris also signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act before Biden's event Thursday, a prerogative of the vice president as president of the Senate. During Harris's remarks, Biden ducked off the stage to greet Juneteenth activist Opal Lee. Performer Usher was spotted in the crowd as well.

"Throughout history, Juneteenth has been known by many names. Jubilee Day. Freedom Day. Liberation Day. Emancipation Day. And today, a national holiday," Harris said.

Harris underscored the Biden administration's recognition of black history after the president traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma, this month to commemorate the "Black Wall Street" massacre of 1921.

"We are gathered here in a house built by enslaved people. We are footsteps away from where President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation," she said. "We have come far, and we have far to go.”

The House passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act 415-14 this week, one day after the Senate unanimously approved it.

The dissenting House lawmakers were all Republicans. They were Reps. Mo Brooks and Mike Rogers of Alabama; Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona; Tom McClintock and Doug LaMalfa of California; Andrew Clyde of Georgia; Thomas Massie of Kentucky; Matt Rosendale of Montana; Ralph Norman of South Carolina; Scott DesJarlais of Tennesse; Ronny Jackson and Chip Roy of Texas; and Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin.

Rosendale dismissed the holiday as a leftist creation made out "of whole cloth to celebrate identity politics as part of its larger efforts to make critical race theory the reigning ideology of our country."

"Since I believe in treating everyone equally, regardless of race, and that we should be focused on what unites us rather than our differences, I will vote no,” he said in a statement.

Others, such as Massie and Roy, objected to the bill's use of the word "independence."

"This name needlessly divides our nation on a matter that should instead bring us together by creating a separate Independence Day based on the color of one’s skin," Roy said.

The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act goes into effect this year. Federal employees may observe the holiday Friday since June 19 is a Saturday this year, the Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday.

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Juneteenth, the first new holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established in 1983, celebrates Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger's 1865 enforcement of Lincoln's 1862 Emancipation Proclamation in Texas.

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Tags: News, Biden, Biden Administration, White House, Joe Biden, Juneteenth, Kamala Harris, Holidays

Original Author: Naomi Lim

Original Location: Biden and Harris stress history education as Juneteenth becomes federal holiday

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