Senate passes bill recognizing Emancipation Day as a national holiday

The Senate passed legislation Tuesday declaring June 19, Emancipation Day in the United States, a national holiday. The day is also commonly referred to as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day.

After passing by unanimous consent, the bill now heads to the House of Representatives, where its approval is virtually assured, and then to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

Celebrated June 19, Freedom Day marks the liberation of previously enslaved African Americans and commemorates the date in 1865 when slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned of their liberation – Union Army General Gordon Granger announced a federal order to recognize all slaves as free. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had officially banned slavery in Texas and other states nearly two and a half years earlier.

More than 150 years later, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, moved the bill to pass unanimously. No other senator objected, including Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, who had previously protested it.

Although the holiday has been celebrated by some African Americans since the late 1800s or adopted at the state level, the holiday has become even more popular in recent years. Cities across the country celebrate the date with festivals, parades, barbecues and educational events.