WASHINGTON – Honoring Black History Month, today U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ed Markey (D-MA) and U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) filed bipartisan bills to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, which announced that, in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation, “all slaves are free.” Currently, Juneteenth is celebrated by 47 states, including Texas, and the District of Columbia. The bill is cosponsored by 53 Senators, Republicans and Democrats.
“The freedom of all Americans which Texas celebrates every Juneteenth should be celebrated all across the nation,” said Sen. Cornyn. “A federal Juneteenth holiday would represent a big step in our nation’s journey toward equality.”
“We commemorate Juneteenth as the day that word of emancipation finally reached enslaved people in Texas in 1865, but we know the struggle for true Black liberation continues,” said Sen. Markey. “For too long, we have tried to whitewash our nation’s history instead of confronting the uncomfortable and painful truth. This legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday is but one step we can take to begin to right the wrongs of the past and ensure equal justice in the future.”
“Juneteenth honors the end of the years of suffering that African Americans endured under slavery and celebrates the legacy of perseverance that has become the hallmark of the African American experience in the struggle for equality,” Rep. Jackson Lee said. “Juneteenth celebrates African American freedom while encouraging self-development and respect for all cultures. But it must always remain a reminder to us all that liberty and freedom are the precious birthright of all Americans which must be jealously guarded and preserved for future generations. As it takes on a more national and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all our roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing. This is why we must establish the Juneteenth Independence Day, as a national holiday. And today we also pay special tribute to Opal Lee, the Grandmother of Juneteenth!”
Sen. Cornyn has been the lead author of a resolution honoring Juneteenth annually since 2011. His bill with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) for a federal study of an National Emancipation Trail from Galveston to Houston, following the path of slaves freed on June 19, 1865 to spread the news, was signed into law last year.