Juneteenth Is Now A Federal Holiday — What Does This Mean?


Photo: Getty Images

On June 16, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. With his signature, Juneteenth was officially designed as a federal holiday.

“This is a day of profound weight and profound power, a day in which we remember the moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take,” Biden said as he signed the act.

For a moment in time, the work of activist Opal Lee, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Sen. John Cornyn was honored in a special way. Adding on, the moment in which Union General Gordon Granger informed the last group of enslaved Black Americans was memorialized in federal legislation. Unfortunately, there were a few aspects of the day that marred the special occasion.

As federal lawmakers sang "Life Every Voice and Song" and patted themselves on the back, there were a few details that dampened the ceremonial signing. Signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act highlights federal lawmakers' inability to pass legislation that protects Black and Brown lives. It is also important to note that while Juneteenth is a federal holiday, it does not mean that states will be pressed to teach young students about the history of the holiday in public school classrooms. In fact, several states are pushing forth legislation to bar Critical Race Theory in classrooms. Topping it all off, Juneteenth is meant to celebrate the last group of enslaved Americans that were freed by Union General Gordon Granger and the Emancipation Proclamation.

There is symbolic meaning in the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, but there's still so much that is yet to be done. As a result, many are left asking, what does Juneteenth mean for me?

Photo: Getty Images

When does the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act Go Into Effect?

The bill was signed into law by President Joe Biden on June 16, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. However, it is important to note that the exact wording of the bill does not set aside a specific date to honor Juneteenth. Therefore, the federal government has not outlined that Juneteenth does in fact take place on June 19. Read the full act here.

Will I get off from work?

Possibly. Because Juneteenth falls on a Sunday this year, many companies are commemorating the day on Monday, June 20. While federal employees will get the holiday on Monday, June 20, not all states have acknowledged Juneteenth as a holiday for workers. For example, this month, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey approved Juneteenth as a holiday for workers in the state, joining 47 other states that already recognize it as a holiday.

Individuals who work for private companies should check their employer's policy on Juneteenth. Similar to federal and state employers, some private companies like Target, Starbucks and MailChimp observe the holiday while others do not.

Will I get off from school?

Maybe. Much like employers, some schools will be open and some schools will be closed. It is a city-by-city decision.

Will banks be closed?

This year, Juneteenth falls on a Sunday, which means Federal Reserve Banks and branches will be closed on Monday, June 20, 2022.

Will mail still be received?

Like banks, post offices will be closed on Monday, June 20, in observance of Juneteenth. which falls on a Sunday this year.

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