The U.S. House of Representatives voted 415-14 in favor of making Juneteenth a federal holiday on Wednesday, sending the bill to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
Democrats voted unanimously in favor of the bill; all 14 no votes came from Republicans. Two members did not vote.
The measure, which would make Juneteenth a nationally-recognized holiday every year on June 19, was passed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday under a unanimous consent agreement that expedites the process for considering legislation.
Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day, commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas — nearly two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Though slavery was not completely abolished until the 13th Amendment, which came six months later, Juneteenth has come to symbolize the end of slavery.
GOP Rep. Randy Weber — who currently serves as the Congressman for Galveston, Texas — said Juneteenth is “long overdue to be recognized as a federal holiday.”
“Juneteenth reminds us of the freedom so bravely defended by many, many Americans, and it encourages us to remain steadfast in the good fight against division,” Weber said on the House floor ahead of the vote, adding: “It also reminds us we have a way to go.”
President Biden is expected to swiftly sign the bill into law upon his return to the White House. Biden is currently still on his first overseas trip as president, visiting Europe for a swath of meetings with other world leaders.
Biden has previously touched on the significance of Juneteenth in the nation’s history. While still running for office in June of last year, Biden penned an op-ed in Essence magazine saying Juneteenth is a “holiday whose very existence tells us so much about the soul of America.”
“It reminds us of just how vulnerable our nation is to being poisoned by systems and acts of inhumanity,” Biden wrote in part. “And it reminds us, too, of our incredible capacity to heal, to hope, and to emerge from our darkest moments of cruelty into a better version of ourselves.”
Under the legislation, the federal holiday would be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day, and will be the 11th nationally-recognized holiday.
The vast majority of states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or have an official observance of the day, and most states hold celebrations. Juneteenth is a paid holiday for state employees in Texas, New York, Virginia and Washington.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.