TEXAS, USA — Representative Chip Roy (R-TX 21st District) voted against the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, which passed the House of Representatives 415-14 Wednesday and was signed into law by President Joe Biden Thursday.
In a written statement, Roy said Juneteenth should be commemorated and commended the lawmakers who worked to pass the bill, but he said he could not vote for it based on the proposed holiday's name.
The congressman, who represents parts of San Antonio, Austin, and areas west, argued to call it Juneteenth National Emancipation Day, saying the proposed name "needlessly divides our nation on a matter that should instead bring us together by creating a separate Independence Day based on the color of one’s skin."
Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in America, but it isn't the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Instead, it marks the day over two years later when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas with news that the war was over and all enslaved people were free.
Texas was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday in 1980, and all but two states have joined in officially recognizing it since. For more on the history, click here.
Here's the full statement from Roy:
"Today, I voted against S. 475, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, which would establish a new national holiday called Juneteenth National Independence Day. Juneteenth should be commemorated as the expression of the realization of the end of slavery in the United States - and I commend those who worked for its passage.
I could not vote for this bill, however, because the holiday should not be called “Juneteenth National Independence Day” but rather, “Juneteenth National Emancipation [or Freedom or otherwise] Day. This name needlessly divides our nation on a matter that should instead bring us together by creating a separate Independence Day based on the color of one’s skin.
We asked Democrats to work with us on the floor to change the name to one that properly recognizes the importance of the day without creating a separate “Independence Day,” however, Democrats refused. As a country, we must stop dividing ourselves by race and unite in our common pursuit of the ideals set forth in our Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal."