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“I've only been president for several months, but I think this will go down for me, it's one of the greatest honors I will have had as president”
U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law a bipartisan bill to recognize Juneteenth, or June 19th – a day marking the emancipation of slaves in America – a federal U.S. holiday.
The bill, which was passed overwhelmingly by the 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.
Biden spoke in a room filled with members of Congress and activists, noting quote “great nations don't ignore their most painful moments...they embrace them."
BIDEN: "This is a day, in my view, 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, what I have long called America's original sin. At the same time, I also remember the extraordinary capacity to heal, to hope, and to emerge from those painful moments and a bitter, bitter version of ourselves, to make a better version of ourselves."
The law comes a year after the United States was rocked by protests against racism following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer.
Despite the overwhelming bipartisan support, 14 House Republicans voted against recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday.
Among them was Representative Matt Rosendale of Montana who wrote in a tweet, quote: “Their intent is to replace the Fourth of July with this new day, one that will inevitably focus on America's darkest moments.”
Juneteenth does not replace the Fourth of July – America’s Independence Day.