President Biden on Thursday signed into law a bill declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday, NBC News reports, officially and nationally recognizing June 19 as the day marking the end of slavery in the U.S.
Of the signing ceremony's many attendees was none other than R&B artist Usher, who last June penned an op-ed for The Washington Post titled "Why it's so important that Juneteenth become a national holiday." Also in attendance was Opal Lee, the 94-year-old activist at the heart of the Juneteenth movement, per NBC News.
Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the room of lawmakers, officials, and activists prior to the bill's official signing, remarking to thunderous applause: "Juneteenth has been known by many names: Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day, and today, a national holiday."
"Today we consecrate Juneteenth for what it ought to be, what it must be — a national holiday," said President Biden. He later added that this historic moment will be "one of the greatest honors I will have had as president." "Not because I did it," he revealed, but because "you did it."
The House overwhelmingly cleared the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act 415-14 on Wednesday after it passed in the Senate the day before. Juneteenth celebrates and commemorates June 19, 1865, when news of the Civil War's end made its way to Galveston, Texas, and enslaved Black Americans were informed of their freedom.
Read more at NBC News.