President Joe Biden has signed a bill into law creating Juneteenth – the nation’s oldest annual commemoration of slavery’s end – as a national holiday.

Following the proposal’s swift passage in Congress, from a unanimous vote in the Senate on Tuesday and debate and passage with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, the president signed the measure into law on Thursday, two days before 2021’s Juneteenth celebrations.

Effective this week, federal workers will receive a paid holiday on 19 June, or, if it falls on a weekend, the closest Friday or Monday.

In remarks from the White House before a bill signing, the president said Juneteenth “will join the others of our national celebrations” for “our independence, our labourers who built this nation, our service members” but he underscored the nation’s urgent and ongoing duty to live up to its promise of equality.

He pointed to his administration’s efforts to combat and prosecute discrimination, promote equity in healthcare and education, and protect voting rights against “an assault that offends our very democracy” from partisan legislation undermining ballot access across the US.

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