Every single member of Michigan’s Congressional delegation voted in favor of making Juneteenth National Independence Day a holiday.
DETROIT, Mich.—Juneteenth, celebrated each year on June 19, commemorates the real end of slavery in the United States.
On Thursday, June 17, President Joe Biden signed legislation passed with overwhelming public support that formally recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday for the first time.
Freeing a nation of enslaved people wasn’t an overnight process. It was long, and often bitter. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, it took until 1865 for slaves in Texas to finally be free. That happened June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger ordered the public reading of General Order 3, which announced to Texas, the last slave-holding state, that Black people were not property and must be freed.
As a result, Juneteenth is the most widely celebrated day to honor Black people’s resilience and the end of slavery. Michigan has recognized the holiday formally for 15 years, and now the federal government is poised to do the same.
Legislation recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday named “Juneteenth National Independence Day” was passed unanimously by the Senate and had only 14 votes against it in the House. Every member of Michigan’s delegation voted in favor of the holiday.
Some opposition hinged on the name, arguing that Juneteenth’s “National Independence Day” moniker could cause confusion with the Fourth of July, formally called “Independence Day.” This was the case with Republican Rep. Thomas Massie from Kentucky, who voted against the holiday.
Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Detroit) provided the context explaining the name.
“Independence from being enslaved in a country is different from a country getting independence to rule themselves,” Lawrence explained on the House floor. “We are still, today, living through the blatant racism and slavery that denied us education, denied us opportunity for economic development, empowerment for ourselves, denied us the right to have a job and own property.”
And correcting the false impression that Black independence is something inherently included with American independence is core to the purpose of Juneteenth, Lawrence explained.
“We have a responsibility to teach every generation of Black and white the pride of a people who have survived, endured, and succeeded in these United States of America despite slavery,” Lawrence said.
Statements of support for Juneteenth as a holiday came from officials in every corner of Michigan, as well as from the woman representing its capital.
“The end of slavery in the United States is a milestone we should celebrate, but it should also be a reminder that we still have work to do when it comes to social justice and equality,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing). “I’m looking forward to joining constituents to commemorate Juneteenth this weekend back in Michigan.”