US

A US national holiday commemorating the end of slavery is due to be signed into law by President Biden after it received overwhelming backing.

Representatives voted by 415-14 to make 19 June, known as Juneteenth, a federal holiday, while the Senate passed the bill unanimously.

Mr Biden is expected to add his signature at the White House on Thursday.

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Congress votes for holiday to mark end of slavery

The date marks the day in 1865 when a group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas – which was in the pro-slavery Confederacy – finally found out they were free, nearly two years after President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Confederacy had surrendered two months before, ending the American Civil War.

President Lincoln signed the proclamation on 1 January 1863.

He won the November 1860 election on an anti-slavery platform before war broke out five months later.

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During debate in the House, Democrat Sheila Jackson, from Texas, appeared beside a well-known black-and-white photograph showing a man’s back scarred from being whipped during slavery.

The new national holiday would “commemorate the end of chattel slavery, America’s original sin, and bring about celebration”, she said.

It follows a year of protests against racism following the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis.

Juneteenth was officially declared a state holiday in Texas in 1980 and has since been recognised in most other states.

Republican representative Guy Reschenthaler said that making it a federal holiday would increase awareness.

It will “recognize the Americans who fought and died to end slavery”, he added.

It is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Junior Day was created in 1983.

Representative Carolyn Maloney said she could not think of a “more important milestone to commemorate”.

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