President Biden signs bill recognizing Juneteenth as federal holiday

The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, but activists say the symbolic victory is far from the substantial change they have demanded.
17:46 | 06/17/21

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Transcript for President Biden signs bill recognizing Juneteenth as federal holiday
Steve host somebody watching this would mean our national correspondent. You celebrated your dream as a little boy and knew that many members of your community your own friends some of them. Didn't even know what the holiday but. I did Davis Saddam we were when I was a child. Members update and the black Methodist Church. It was a family reunion. You had to bring a dish it had to be good. It was on a hot day like this one in June. It was a a celebration that usually didn't happen. In mixed company. But that is changing today. And now there's. The question over symbolism. Vs substance the debate that will take place in Washington and in statehouses across the country. About passing laws to enforce an underlying the very freedoms. That this holiday celebrates David. Steve thank you. President. Pulling up that building is now sign of a federal holiday. And as you heard Steve say there. And be looked at each share this story with us as a boy. He celebrated June 18 with his family. I'm but it was a celebration that you wouldn't hold a mixed company and its chief. So smartly pointed out hopefully beginning today. That is no longer decrease in this country. But Americans will learn the history behind. The final black slaves in Texas who weeding years after the emancipation proclamation before learning that. They had freedom to. The president speaking to all police who he said he met in Nevada. About Longo during the presidential campaign jokingly said she told them. That she loved him and he said I'd like to believe that she does. Blast for that at some point if we get the chance or the honor to meet her but we're sure. I'm certain that she looks what has happened today after many years again fighting for this to become federal law. Steve alluded to this Mary Brewster senior White House correspondent that there is still a lot of work to be done he's in him cannot overstate the history of this moment. But also there remains work the president talked about that he talked about the assault on the sacred right to vote in this country the White House knows there is. A lot of work ahead. It David you heard the president say this is a moment to celebrate but also an opportunity to grapple. With where we are as a country while Washington is finally coming together to make this a federal holiday a moment that is long over due. It is also added we are seeing these growing calls in Washington to back up this commemoration was really substantive action. On bigger priorities there's this federal push to guarantee voting. Axis is we've seen more than a dozen Republican states pass these stricter voting laws. This comes as we've seen a push by several states to limit how brazen inequality is taught in American schools and of course as we still have not seen. Annie who. Big and grand sweeping police reform out of congress despite. The Europe racial reckoning that we have seen so this is a moment to take stock as the vice president said. To look around at the action and inaction we've seen here in Washington. The president Mary thank you the president inviting. Several members of congress up to that table as I mentioned. Vice president Kabul Harris pointing out that the senate voted unanimously to make this a federal holiday. Bipartisan support overwhelmingly. Bipartisan even in the house though about a dozen Republicans are so voted against the idea. Still this is a rare moment in Washington and extort one given a support for this on both sides an overwhelming support. For that matter earlier ripe for gore is a professor of American history with Brandeis she's also an ABC news. A consultant and Leo great to have you with us you and I were talking earlier and and I found it interesting that you. You considered today somewhat of a surprise somewhat. Unexpected. But given what you've witnessed in this country over the last year George Floyd the reckoning over race the long overdue conversation this country. But perhaps this moment was fueled by all of that. Boise one of the things that's it DP CIC about Islam angst eased just shouldn't intimate. Eating meat you just heard at the senate voted for it is unanimously. Or I'll representatives. Representatives separate and equal I voted for this they pushed it through enthusiastically. And that's after years and years and years people pushing urging she be federal bill. And there are rapidly. But I'm. This is I think something to be. And it's something that is directly connected to the chest and seen the last year our viewers out around death and George Florida and murderer George Floyd. Any immediate. And best first hour of checks and rebellions. One of the things that he saw his eat all Argentines become federal emerged much credit and an but it also. Organizations. Corporations. Institution east. There are readily currency the idea June 18 so wait she essentially. Home. In around her simple action and for everything. You need it to me it makes a civil rights leaders people that are she dramatic institutional. Structural change in this country. DG NT acts in the symbolic. Are symbolic element of inequality. As she did in this country law. And as you point out it's the beginning of an important conversation one that's long overdue and perhaps that the true heart work. Begins now not to say that this wasn't hard work and deeper particularly when you see images of hopefully. Who has fought for this a for so long legislators and supporters of this. Moment whispering into the presidency here. And we took over the vice president said as she stood there in the east from opening but her remarks that we are gathered here in a house built by enslaved people. Just foot steps away from where president Abraham Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation and she explained. How those final black slaves in the south in Texas. Waiting years before learning they were free. A programming note here June 18 together we triumph with soul of the nation special event it airs tomorrow night Friday night right here on ABC a celebration. And resilience in observance of June 18 it also features Michael Strahan interview with former president Barack Obama. That's tomorrow night beginning at 9 PM eastern and before I let you go we just thought we would and this special report would that imaginable believe the president kneeling right before her. She is not a four years old again and educator from Fort Worth, Texas. And when that statement just a couple of other states recognize June 18 she then made it her. Her project. For wish that this would become a federal holiday and today that has happened. Our coverage continues and ABC news live in it the entire team back for world news tonight. I'll see that in the meantime good. Hi everyone I'm famous and we're continuing coverage now after president Biden just signed into law June teen as an official federal holiday marking the day. Where all slaves in this country were finally told that they were freed that day happened two years. After the emancipation proclamation but in Galveston Texas those slaves. We're still continuing to work there under the guise of ownership. Again that day was a day they were finally told they were free and their slave owners forced to give up those slaves. And so joining me now with a little bit more on all this LA times Connell columnists navy's use contributor. LT granderson LC we heard the president saying that. Today and signing this insert it into law is. About two things one is about recognizing the pass and realizing. The stain of what he calls America's original sin and the impact that that not only had Ben. But that it had now but on a more optimistic note it also acknowledges the promise of what's to come. Dummies it was a beautiful ceremony. I'm not a question of more storms are actually emotional suits who listens to remarks to see also leading. People who have worked so hard to make this moment Paris home it's important Deutzman for important moment in this country's history. Admits. That his fight for Independence Day won't independence paper. That while serving their country was freed from Britain's rule. We're not offering. And the simple fact bet you've had these some 250. Dollar enslaved people in Texas. Still living under their bondage. Here's the emancipation proclamation. President meeting was assassinated. Endorsed people in Texas student. Emancipation proclamations. That's what we're talking about here so this thing is so important because not only doesn't celebrate. Every woman in this country being liberated if you will also acknowledges a sense. The sand which. People will purposely kept in the dark about their rights about their freedoms. And today some of the rhetoric coming up congress for some the members of congress. She's here elements of that same attempt to keep people through the door to borrow backs and brought true. Read and I want to go to our. National correspondent Steve those Sistani as Steve that I know you've been covering this story through out the year really in all different communities around the country. How our community of color reacting to this and I know you have your uninteresting experience celebrating June 18 growing up but also realizing a lot of people. Had no idea the holiday even existed. Yeah I'll I'll I'll start with the first part of that how are people reacting. And you know I heard I've heard a couple people today. In black circles. Call this this is our Independence Day are July 4. That this is sort of enshrine in your head into the fabric. Of America this particular day. That's that's really the the largest sort of voice I'm hearing. Down black social media. About. This day but I'm also hairy. That there is a conflict now between the symbolism. Making this a holiday and the real work that needs to be done that you alluded to. In Washington at state house across the country. By some who want to enshrined the freedoms that this holiday celebrates in particular. Voting rights the voting rights bill that's being discussed it in DC and also the efforts in statehouses across this country. To adjust voting rules after the last election in a way that many people feel is harmful to the black vote. So that there are a number of of conflicting. Up feelings on this all saved from a personal experience. I remember as a kid celebrating June teen. Act and AM mean Methodist a black church that my family belong to for a period of time. It was a celebration it was. Eight they called it freedom day a family reunion. You had to bring a dish it was a hot day always six it seem like this one but it was an event that did not happen. In mixed company and what has happened today with the signature of the president. Is this is now a holiday for all Americans and that is a significant change but it must not be lost that this is happening. In large part because of the growing conversation we're having in this country about race. Conversations over racial reconciliation. Conversation is on racial justice social equity. Those conversations. Led to this event where you have a this super majority of lawmakers in DC who agreed. To make this day. A holiday Diane. And I want to go to White House correspondent Mary Bruce I'm not because it Marriott Steve points out this is now a holiday for all Americans that this is also law passed by almost all. Of congress and a unique these days in Washington to see. Our lawmakers agree on anything that this was bill signed into law with bipartisan support in the house and unanimous support in the senate. Get the bipartisan is in a word we we say your here often in Washington these days and yet you DNC. Congress coming together both parties to finally. Make this a federal holiday to commemorate this important moment in our nation's history and a Steve. Steve said a moment that now be celebrated by all Americans. But we are also seeing in Washington growing calls to back this up. What really substantive action on some weighty priorities are you heard the president say that this is a data celebrate. But also a moment to grapple with where we are is a nation the vice president saying this is an opportunity to take stock. It clearly shows how far we have come just the fact that we saw coddling terrorists the first not just the first woman but the first woman of color. To be vice president speaking in the White House a house built by and slave laborers there is no stronger symbolism. About just how far this country has comment. And seeing back but it also is a chance to really look around. And look at how far and how much this country still has to go well you know it comes as we have seen this push at the federal level to gearing teen. Boating access as more than a dozen Republican led states have passed stricter voting laws. Laws that advocates they will only make it harder for people of color to vote we are also seeing a push by many states many Republican led states again. To try and limit how race and any quality how are Arab nations very history. Is taught in American schools and of course he's not been seen anything police reform bill out of congress despite this really incredible year of racial reckoning. It we have had so yes this is a moment to celebrate. A moment that many say is very very long overdue. Finally making this a federal holiday but is also a chance to look around and see how much further this country has to get out. And Steve I know you're going to be digging deep on this tomorrow as part of his soul of the nation series that you've been working on all year. You guys are exploring to nineteenth tomorrow what can we expect to see. Well one of the big things we expect to see it is an interview with the a team anchor Michael Strahan. And president Barack Obama that is definitely one to see his thoughts on the conversations we've been having in this country on a race over the past year. I'm that is tomorrow night to tomorrow night between nine. An 11 PM we also have a piece from Kenneth promote me to looks at the struggles of black farmers in America. Lindsey Davis. Has a piece where she discusses some of the ally ship issues between black populations and other populations white neighbors Asian American communities. And then I have a piece in in this broadcast as well. Focusing on black excellence. We focus on and on a family that is really the very definition. June 18 a pair of sisters. Who are responsible. For more than a hundred billion dollars. Property development and building. Across this country and so. It's a it's an exciting program we are working on it as we are talking right now there's a large team that's putting it together. I've seen bits and pieces out that it's one of the most beautiful. Programs I've ever seen. And you'll see the heart and soul of a lot of our team that is working on this program and I can't wait for America to. Sad to see this tomorrow night looking for our kids see it again that's specialist called June teen. Together we try amp it airs tomorrow night at 9 PM eastern time here on ABC and it will also be airing the next day. On Hulu we cannot check that out. And finally I wanna go to Brandeis University American history professor Leo right record doctor earlier evercore photo on the history what this moment means today we just. The president signed this federal holiday into law. It has been forty years since we've seen that happen doctor gore and the last time we sought. Was for Martin Luther King Jr. day so historical contexts what does that mean. From a historical respected its historic moment. United seeing very rarely signed into law federal holidays in the RC that there's been a shock. A little dairy and dairy meal in which the democratic and congress are bloated and was he in the senate voted unanimously. Represented is largely voted separate people people. Why consensus that this should be federal holiday and even that there are being you know. Essentially no eighty. Over the last year's. I think is assisting in historic moment and he should try to Eden is seeing I'll. City is largely symbolic. All right doctor Lee ever evercore LV granderson. Steve us is coming in mayor Bruce we appreciate your time today thank you. And again president Biden has just signed into law June 18 is now an official federal holiday it will start being celebrated to morrow.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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