Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke and members of a congressional delegation on Thursday joined US President Joe Biden and Vice President, Caribbean American, Kamala Harris for the signing of the historic Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.
On Wednesday, in an overwhelming vote of 415-14, the US House of Representatives passed S. 475, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, to commemorate Juneteenth, the national remembrance of the end of chattel slavery in the United States, as a federal holiday.
“I am so proud to join President Biden, Vice President Harris and my colleagues for the singing this historic legislation into law,” Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told Caribbean Life soon after the signing ceremony.
“This year commemorates the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth, when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, declaring the abolition of slavery two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the end of the Civil War,” added the representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. “With their freedom, the original sin of the American experiment came to an end, and a chapter — of optimism and promise — opened.
“Juneteenth’s prolific significance continues to resonate across our global diaspora,” continued Clarke, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Taskforce on Immigration, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and a senior member of the House Committee on Homeland Security. “Whether you are from the Caribbean or Africa, born in America or abroad, Juneteenth marks when many of our ancestors were liberated from bondage.
“However, the realization that although free, Black Americans continue to face racial discrimination, inequality, terror and violence is cause for grave concern, and a clarion call to action. Juneteenth is more than a celebration; it is a reminder of the plight of enslaved people,” the congresswoman said. “We must never forget our ancestor’s sacrifices, and we continue the work in their honor.”
Clarke noted that, on Jun. 19, 1865, the United States’ last remaining enslaved persons were informed of their liberation, more than two years following the Emancipation Proclamation.
Over the course of the subsequent 156 years, she said Jun. 19 became known as “Juneteenth”, and has been celebrated and commemorated by untold individuals throughout the world.
By signing national legislation recognizing Jun 19 as “Juneteenth National Independence Day,” Biden created the United States’ 12th federal holiday.