Americans celebrate Juneteenth as observance becomes federal holiday

Date: Jun 17 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Media Relations 

Statement from APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD

"The American Public Health Association joins with millions of Americans in commemorating Juneteenth this week. We heartily applaud this week’s decision by policymakers to declare this important day a federal holiday.

The observance — which marks the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Texas were notified of their freedom and celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S. — serves as a vivid reminder to advance racial equity in health care, education, employment, housing and justice.

This new federal recognition has been a long time coming, and is well overdue. It is a true marker of the evil of slavery on this country’s history. We must work to embrace racial equity now and forever. The new holiday will be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day.

We thank Congress for passing legislation Wednesday to make June 19th a federal holiday. With President Joe Biden’s signature today, Juneteenth will become the 12th federal holiday and the first one since lawmakers voted to establish Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. As the 19th falls on a Saturday this year, most federal employees will observe the holiday tomorrow, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Juneteenth has gained both significance and prominence in recent years as millions of us have joined together against racism and law enforcement violence against black Americans. We are united by our resolve to change course and ensure that tomorrow’s America is one where equity is not simply a catchphrase.

We must continually dedicate our efforts and resources to confront and dismantle a system of oppression that has stained this country. Racism is an ongoing public health crisis."

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The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at www.apha.org.