The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to recognize Juneteenth as a legal public holiday.
“Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a major step forward to recognize the wrongs of the past — but we must continue to work to ensure equal justice and fulfill the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our Constitution,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 60 senators, cleared the upper chamber by unanimous consent, meaning no lawmaker objected to its passage.
“This is huge,” Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) tweeted after the vote. “I look forward to passing this bill in the House and making #Juneteenth a federal holiday.”
Juneteenth, celebrated annually on June 19 and already recognized as a holiday in 45 states, commemorates the end of slavery in Confederate states. While President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves on Jan. 1, 1863, it took another two and a half years before some 250,000 slaves in Texas learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865.
Slavery in the U.S. was formally outlawed when the 13th Amendment was ratified in December 1865.