President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth federal holiday bill into law on Thursday, using the occasion to criticize Republican voting integrity laws.
Biden said the holiday reminded Americans of the “promise of equality” that was made at the end of slavery but that failed to find fulfillment in the current systemically racist society of the United States.
“It’s not going to be fulfilled so long as the sacred right to vote remains under attack,” Biden said, earning applause from the audience at the White House.
“We see this assault from restrictive laws, threats of intimidation, voter purges, and more,” Biden said. “An assault that offends the very democracy, our very democracy.”
Biden vowed to continue fighting for equality throughout society for every American.
“We cannot rest until the promise of equality is fulfilled for every one of us in every corner of this nation,” he said. “That to me is the meaning of Juneteenth.”
Biden described signing the law as “one of the greatest honors” of his presidency.
The president called the new holiday “a day we remember the moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take, what I’ve long called as America’s original sin.”
Biden said Juneteenth had to enter into the catalog of national holidays along with days to celebrate the military, the workers, previous presidents, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“This is a really, really, really important day in our history,” Biden said.
He said the day would allow Americans to celebrate the progress they had made with race relations and “grapple” with the history of racism in America.
“Great nations don’t ignore the most painful moments … they embrace them. Great nations don’t walk away,” Biden said.