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President Biden points to Opal Lee, a 94-year-old Texan who campaigned for a Juneteenth holiday, after signing the bill yesterday. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Two branches of government haven't acted in concert this speedily in at least 10 years.

Driving the news: The Senate passed a Juneteenth national holiday on Tuesday, the House followed Wednesday, President Biden signed it Thursday, and Friday is an official federal holiday (although the Postal Service will operate, saying there wasn't time to shut down).

  • The annual holiday will be June 19. Because that falls on Saturday this year, the government is observing it the day before.

Why it matters: The holiday is a way future generations will remember America's year of racial reckoning.

  • Juneteenth National Independence Day is a permanent marker of a cultural shift that was swifter and surer than we could have imagined before the police killing of George Floyd mobilized millions.

Axios spoke with Harvard law professor Annette Gordon-Reed, who attended Thursday's East Room ceremony, and other historians about the dizzying pace of passage.

  • "All of a sudden, I was getting texts, messages — and an invitation to the White House," said Gordon-Reed, author of the historical memoir "On Juneteenth," a current New York Times bestseller.
  • "It really matters to young people, who will grow up seeing Juneteenth alongside July 4, Memorial Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day."

Edgar Villanueva, author of the Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance, said slavery and Native American removal not only affected people of color, but also the potential growth of a country as a whole.

  • Juneteenth today, he said, should be a time to reflect that, "we've continued to find ways to profit off of the backs of black people in this country."
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) addresses Speaker Pelosi's Juneteenth enrollment ceremony on Thursday. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

The newest federal holiday commemorates June 19, 1865 — the day Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, with word that the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed by President Abraham Lincoln more than two years before.

  • For years, Juneteenth has been celebrated in Houston and Galveston to commemorate General Order No. 3, issued a month after the formal end of the Civil War. Galveston one of the last places in the U.S. where enslaved people learned of their emancipation.
  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) who sponsored the national holiday bill in the House, told Axios Juneteenth becoming a national holiday affirms the experiences of people of Houston and Galveston — the descendants of those who celebrated the first Juneteenth.
  • Ibram X. Kendi, Boston University professor and author of "How To Be an Antiracist," told Axios he was elated that the holiday has finally come to fruition, but added: "I think we'll be in a battle over how we celebrate Juneteenth and how we utilize this day."

Go deeper

Biden signs bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

President Biden and Vice President Harris with members of Congress after the signing in the White House on June 17. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

"Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments," President Biden said before signing legislation Thursday that establishes Juneteenth as a federal holiday, just two days before the occasion.

Why it matters: The holiday, which will be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day, is now the 11th annual federal holiday and the first one established since the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Jun 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The story behind the first holiday in 4 decades

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As hard as it is to get Democrats and Republicans to agree on anything these days, they came together to make Juneteenth a federal holiday because George Floyd's death and withering concern about its cost finally won over critics.

Why it matters: Juneteenth will be the first new holiday since 1983, when Congress finally approved Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. When President Biden signs it into law, June 19 will formally commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.

A guide to Juneteenth celebrations in the Twin Cities

People celebrated Juneteenth last year in George Floyd Square. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Saturday is Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Background: On June 19, 1865, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned they were free — more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.

  • A bill declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday was passed by the House and Senate this week.
  • The city of Minneapolis designated it a holiday this year. City offices will be closed on Friday.

Here's what's happening around the Twin Cities:

  • Friday is Juneteenth Family Night at Creekview Park, hosted by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Music, a youth dance performance and activity bags provided. Virtual community panels will also be streamed tonight and Saturday.
  • The Juneteenth Revolutionary BlackOut Bike Ride returns on Saturday at Theodore Wirth Park. Get outdoors, listen to music and enjoy food from local Black farmers and chefs.
  • Also on Saturday, Black Lives Minnesota and others are holding a Reparations Juneteenth Celebration at the State Capitol.
  • Midtown Global Market will host a full Saturday afternoon of entertaining and educational programming, including some Juneteenth food specials.