JUNETEENTH, THE CELEBRATION of the end of slavery in the U.S., is now an official federal holiday to be observed each June 19. Hotel associations are praising the new law as a step forward in achieving racial equality.
President Joe Biden signed the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act” on Thursday. The bill’s sponsor, Democrat Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, said in a statement that the new holiday is a way for the U.S. government to recognize “the original sin of slavery.”
“As communities celebrate Juneteenth this weekend, it is a clarion call for us to continue the fight for true justice for Black and Brown Americans. We must recommit ourselves to passing substantive voting rights reform to ensure that every person’s voice is heard in our electoral system,” Markey said. “We must ensure police accountability and put an end to the cycle of brutality and murder by law enforcement. We must put economic justice, health justice, and environmental justice at the center of all our work. Creating this federal holiday is just one step in our nation’s ongoing journey towards racial justice and liberation.”
Juneteenth also is known as Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day and Juneteenth Independence Day. According to Markey’s statement, it is derived from Major General Gordon Granger issuance on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, General Order No. 3, announcing that, in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation, “all slaves are free.”
Racial equality has been a major subject for AAHOA members since the death last year of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of Minneapolis, Minnesota, police Officer Derek Chauvin, said Ken Greene, AAHOA interim president and CEO, in a statement. Chauvin, who video shows kept a knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, was convicted of murder in April.
“It is fitting that [Juneteenth] is the first new holiday created since 1983, when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law,” Greene said. “The day represents the end of slavery in the United States, and the timing could not be more appropriate. After the death of George Floyd last year, the eruption of protests highlighted the systemic racism in our country and reopened the dialogue about a subject that has plagued our country for centuries. Following the protests, many businesses, companies, and organizations made promises to do better when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is easy to verbally commit to things, but the actions are what our community sees and believes.”
Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, also issued a statement supporting the creation of the Juneteenth holiday.
“The essence of America can be found in the liberties enjoyed by all our citizens,” Rogers said. “The recognition of a day where every American, regardless of color, can enjoy the promise of our nation should be universally celebrated and serve as an example to the rest of the world.”