President Biden signs Juneteenth Bill into law

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF)- Thursday, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Bill.

This is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Junior Day in 1983.

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Juneteenth is now the 12th federal holiday in the United States.

President Biden says, “In short, this day just doesn’t celebrate the past, it calls for action today. I wish all Americans a happy Juneteenth.”

The holiday commemorates the day that the last African American slave was notified that the civil war ended and they were free.

Throughout the years, the Chattanooga Festival of Black Arts and Ideas has planned Juneteenth celebrations in Chattanooga.

Organizers say that today has been long awaited.

“It’s obviously an incredible event to happen for us. It is a result of many years and many, many people working to sign petitions and doing all of the ground work to get this to become a National holiday”, says Ricardo Morris.

Tennessee Representative Yusef Hakeem says that American’s should use this day to reflect on the past and do their best not to repeat it.

“We have to be mindful and we have to be vigilant as Americans that this kind of thing does not take place again in our country. Again, it should be celebrated. I think that we are all happy. I am very pleased that members of the business community and some members of the government have came together and are making this significant to Chattanooga and Hamilton County”, adds Hakeem.

The House passed the bill Wednesday.

But, there were 14 republicans to vote against it.

Tennessee Congressman Scott DesJarlais was one of them.

News 12 reached out to his office today.

They sent the following statement:

“Representative DesJarlais voted no on H. Res. 479 because he believes it is fiscally irresponsible to continue to create new paid holidays for federal workers while the majority of hard-working private-sector employees get left to pay the bill.

Juneteenth is a state holiday in the vast majority of American states. The only thing making this holiday federal does is spending $600 million dollars to pay federal employees to not come to work.”

The Chattanooga Festival of Black Arts and Ideas has many Juneteenth events planned around the city.

For a full list, click here.