June 19 (more commonly known as Juneteenth), 1865 marks the day Black American slaves in Texas were set free. US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris signed a bill into law to make this a federal holiday as they push to address the country’s historical injustices.
“I have to say to you, I’ve only been president for several months, but I think this will go down, for me, as one of the greatest honours I will have as president,” Biden said at the White House during a signing ceremony.
“I regret that my grandchildren aren’t here, because this is a really, really, really important moment in our history. By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history — and celebrate progress and grapple with the distance we’ve come (and) the distance we have to travel,” Biden said.
“I just got to thinking… there must be something I could do to make people aware of Juneteenth and its significance,” says Opal Lee, the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” of her iconic walks.
“I’ve kept on walking. I’ve kept on talking… now, Juneteenth is a national holiday.” pic.twitter.com/kkirNXIAsx
— CNN (@CNN) June 18, 2021
Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is more than just an acknowledgment of the date. Biden claims the administration has begun efforts to address long-standing systemic racism in housing, education, incarceration and more.
Below we dive into the significance of Juneteenth:
She is considered by many as the grandmother of Juneteenth as she has tirelessly been working to make it a national holiday since 2016. This 94-year old activist from Texas made a two and a half mile pilgrimage to commemorate June 19 and has since garnered over 1.5 million signatures for her petition for Juneteenth with Change.org.
Juneteenth flag and colours
Created in 1977, the flag has the same colours found in the US one: red, white and blue. They show that the formerly enslaved were and are Americans. It also features red and blue stripe sections separated by an arc that signifies new horizons and opportunities. A large white star in the middle represents Texas bursting through with new freedom.
Although these are the formal colours, you’ll also see people celebrating with red, black and green. Why? Because these are the colours of the Pan-African flag made in 1920 by the leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. This symbolises Black liberation and freedom.