Skip to main content.

Congress approves, President signs bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have passed, and President Joe Biden has signed, a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Southern Company and its subsidiaries join those in support of making Juneteenth a national holiday. Given the new status, the system will be reviewing our 2022 holiday schedule in the near future but will not be making any changes this year.

Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee, Emancipation Day or Liberation Day, annually commemorates the freeing of the country’s last remaining slaves on June 19, 1865. Although President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier, news of slavery’s abolishment would slowly make its way through the South.

It took two years, five months and 18 days for the last slaves in Galveston, Texas, to hear Union General Gordon Granger’s announcement they had been freed.

Today, Juneteenth is a time to acknowledge slavery and the hardships Black Americans have endured, celebrate the progress made and reflect on what changes are needed to ensure a more equitable future for all.

Juneteenth is a landmark moment for the U.S., and across the country lawmakers and organizations are working to keep its legacy alive. According to a June 2021, Gallup poll, 69% of Black Americans favored making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Last summer, lawmakers Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Sen. Edward Markey and Sen. John Cornyn introduced bills to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Just this week, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act passed in both the Senate and House of Representatives, which President Biden signed Thursday.

The last federal holiday passed by Congress was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

In 1980, Texas became the first state to designate Juneteenth a state holiday. Today, over 47 states observe the holiday; however, few consider it an official state holiday. This began to change in 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the country’s reckoning with racial injustice. Over the last few weeks, Louisiana, Maine, Illinois and Massachusetts have passed bills to make Juneteenth a state holiday.

There are many ways to celebrate Juneteenth— from family gatherings to parades across the country. Southern Company encourages employees to learn more about the holiday and its history through the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is supported by Southern Company Charitable Foundation and will be holding a virtual program on June 18 from 1-2 p.m.

The Alabama News Center has provided a list of events residents can attend to celebrate and learn about the holiday. In addition, The Sun Herald has provided a list of Juneteenth events for Mississippi residents.