This weekend marks the first time in our nation’s history that Juneteenth will be a federal holiday. Earlier this week, after much work by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act (S.475/ H.R.1320) passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Biden. U.S. Travel was proud to endorse the bill and advocate for its swift enactment.

Sometimes known as “Emancipation Day” or “Jubilee Day,” Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The holiday takes place on the anniversary of Union Army Major General Gordon Granger’s June 19, 1865, announcement in Galveston, TX, that, in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation, “all slaves are free.”

U.S. Travel worked closely with the bill’s sponsors to build support for the proposal and make the case for its swift passage. We believe that the holiday can foster a more complete understanding of our nation’s history and bring even greater meaning to the unifying power of travel.

The establishment of Juneteenth as a federal holiday also makes good economic sense. According to U.S. Travel’s estimates, a new holiday weekend in June would spur 46 million Americans to travel, which would generate $17.4 billion in travel spending—directly supporting 143,000 jobs and producing $2.7 billion in government tax revenue.

In a press release issued by the bill’s primary sponsors, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow praised the holiday as an opportunity to foster “[greater] unity and a more inclusive understanding of our shared history.”

As Mark Twain once said, “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Those words are as true today as they were back then. Travel has a part to play in helping Americans connect with each other and form a more perfect union. To that end, we are happy to play a small role in the effort to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

U.S. Travel commends Sens. Edward Markey (D-MA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and many others for their invaluable leadership in making Juneteenth an official federal holiday, and wishes everyone a happy and healthy Juneteenth.