Washington, D.C. — Today, President Joe Biden signed a bill that will make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Following the bill signing, Nicole Lee Ndumele, vice president for Racial Equity and Justice at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:
Today, 156 years after some of the last Black Americans to be held in bondage in the United States were given word of their freedom, America finally has a designated day to acknowledge and commemorate the end of slavery. But since slavery in the United States officially ended in 1865, a century and a half of deliberate policy choices and structural inequalities have perpetuated racial inequities in virtually every facet of American life.
Commemorating and telling the story of Juneteenth is an important step in understanding the country’s deeply entrenched racial injustices. But it cannot take the place of concrete and meaningful reforms needed to address the present-day inequities that Black Americans confront every day. Congress must now turn its attention to passing tangible policy legislation such as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the For the People Act, the American Jobs Plan, and the American Families Plan.
Together, these bills—and others that center racial justice—would address systemic racism in criminal justice, democracy, and economic opportunity for Black Americans. For more than 400 years, American policy has stood in the way of racial equity. We now have the opportunity to build a new, more just country—but only if Congress acts.