Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and More Senators Propose Bill to Make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday

If passed, the bill would make Juneteenth the first addition to the U.S. list of federal holidays in almost 40 years, after Martin Luther King Day in 1983

Cory Booker, Kamala Harris
Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Juneteenth 2020 could be the beginning of another big moment in Black history.

On Friday — 155 years after the day the last enslaved people were freed — four Senate Democrats announced that they would be introducing a bill that would propose Juneteenth become a federal holiday going forward.

"Together with my colleagues Cory Booker, Tina Smith, and Ed Markey, we are proposing that Juneteenth be a national holiday. And we are dropping that bill saying that Juneteenth should be a national holiday," Sen. Kamala Harris, 55, told MSNBC on Thursday night of the initiative.

"Juneteenth is about reclaiming our history, rejoicing in the progress we've made and recommitting to the work yet undone," said Booker, 51, in a statement, according to multiple outlets, including ABC News and NBC News.

"Our nation still has a long way to go to reckon with and overcome the dark legacy of slavery and the violence and injustice that has persisted after its end," he added. "Making Juneteenth a federal holiday represents a step forward in the journey of healing America is still taking."

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2015 Juneteenth celebration in Denver. Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty
Abraham Lincoln welcomes freed slaves in Richmond, Virginia. ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty

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If passed, the bill would make Juneteenth the first addition to the U.S. list of federal holidays in almost 40 years, after Martin Luther King Day in 1983.

Juneteenth, short for June Nineteenth, marks the day that slavery ended in America in 1865. The longest-running African-American holiday in the United States (also known as Black Independence Day), Juneteenth isn't widely taught in schools.

In 1866, the first Juneteenth was celebrated in Texas and was known as "Freedom Day" and then "Jubilee Day." It included prayer services, barbecues, music and celebrations that eventually spread across the country as the newly freed Black people moved throughout the nation.

The annual celebration comes this year on the heels of the nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality, reinvigorated by the death of George Floyd while in the custody of police officers.

2019 Juneteenth parade in Philadelphia. Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty

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President Donald Trump announced last week that he had rescheduled a rally planned for June 19 following widespread criticism over the event being held on Juneteenth, announcing the move — a rare retreat for the president — on Twitter the evening of June 12.

"We had previously scheduled our #MAGA Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for June 19th – a big deal," wrote Trump, 74. “Unfortunately, however, this would fall on the Juneteenth Holiday. Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out … of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents."

He continued, "I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests …We have already had ticket requests in excess of 200,000 people. I look forward to seeing everyone in Oklahoma!"

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (, which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement ( provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.
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