Fayetteville City Council Approves Juneteenth as Official Holiday

The official observance will begin in the summer of 2022.

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The city of Fayetteville will recognize Juneteenth as a paid city holiday. City council unanimously approved the resolution proposed by council member D’Andre Jones at last night’s meeting. 

“This makes me very proud to be a Fayetteville resident,” Jones said. “Fayetteville is once again leading the state.” 

The city will recognize Juneteenth as a formal holiday to encourage education and community service by its employees beginning June 19, 2022. The resolution calls on all people “to reflect on the history of slavery in the United States and the historic struggle of African Americans to end slavery and discrimination in all its forms.”

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. On Sept. 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all enslaved people freed. On June 19, 1865, word reached Galveston, Tx., and the following year June 19 began to be celebrated in Texas as Juneteenth.

In 1997, Congress recognized Juneteenth as the Independence Day Observance of Americans of African Descent. Although it is not a federal holiday, 47 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as a state or ceremonial holiday, according to Forbes. North Dakota, South Dakota and Hawaii are the only three states that don’t recognize the holiday.

Several organizations expressed support for the resolution including the mayor’s African American Advisory Council, Northwest Arkansas Martin Luther King Council, University of Arkansas Black Alumni Society, University of Arkansas Black Employee Group, Northwest Arkansas NAACP, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, St. James Baptist Church, Fellowship of Champions Church, Black Action Collective and PHA Hill City Masonic Lodge #347. Washington County Quorum Court Member Shawndra Washington voiced support for establishing Juneteenth as a city holiday.

About a half dozen local residents spoke in favor of the resolution at last night’s meeting including Coby Davis, president of the Northwest Arkansas chapter of the NAACP. 

“This would be a true sign of inclusivity for Fayetteville and all of Northwest Arkansas,” Davis said. “We hope that Fayetteville will take the lead and be an example for cities throughout the state of Arkansas and throughout our country.”

The Fayetteville city council approved the ordinance with an 8-0 vote.   

Mayor Lioneld Jordan thanked Jones for bringing the proposal forward saying “it’s very, very important.” Jordan serves on a committee for the National League of City and said they’re working to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is an Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts for NPR affiliates as well as print and digital publications since 2007.