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U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) at a bill enrollment signing ceremony for the Juneteenth National Independence Day . Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Juneteenth's establishment as a federal holiday should serve as a launching point for Congress to create a commission on reparations for African Americans, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said at an Axios event on Friday.

Why it matters: Jackson Lee, who has long worked to get a commission on reparations funded, believes now is the time to start "correcting the social ills" of society.

  • President Biden signed legislation Thursday establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. It's the first one established since the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
  • The commission would examine how reparations for African Americans would work and how descendants of enslaved people would be compensated.

What she's saying: "It is also the launching point for correcting the social ills, like improving our police community relationships, getting the voting system turned right side up, making sure we don't have that unfortunate situation of people being denied the right to vote," Jackson Lee said.

  • "I think our Congress, our House, can be a leader in voting on a commission established by the United States Congress to study slavery, to discuss their proposals for the disparities that are still going on today," Jackson Lee said.

Watch the full event here.

Go deeper

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.

The Juneteenth milestone

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).

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.