FAYETTEVILLE -- Washington County's Quorum Court passed a resolution Thursday recognizing the significance of Juneteenth, which is June 19 and commemorates the day slaves in Texas learned of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The name Juneteenth was created in response to the June 19, 1866, adoption of Black Independence Day in Galveston, Texas, according to the resolution. Fayetteville's City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring Juneteenth a city holiday starting in 2022 during a meeting June 1.
President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth a federal holiday Thursday.
Justice of the Peace Shawndra Washington, who introduced the resolution, said Juneteenth marks the day slaves of African American descent were freed "not just in theory but also in practice." She has found many people don't know that there were African Americans in the U.S. still functioning as slaves for over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed who didn't know they had been freed.
"(Juneteenth) is something that has been celebrated in Northwest Arkansas for as long as I've lived here, and a lot of people have attended the celebrations without knowing the history behind it," Washington said.
Sarah Moore of Fayetteville said Juneteenth was only lightly touched on in her Arkansas education, and she didn't understand the full history of the day until she was an adult. She thanked Washington for her leadership in bringing the resolution forward and said she's very excited that Juneteenth is being publicly recognized.
Justice of the Peace Eva Madison and Justice of the Peace Evelyn Rios-Stafford expressed interest in establishing Juneteenth as a county holiday, which would need to be introduced as an ordinance for committee consideration and would take effect in 2022 if passed.
"I think it's important that the days that our society chooses to set aside as holidays recognize those things that are most important in our history, and Juneteenth is certainly one of them," Madison said.
The resolution states Washington County is "committed to the advancement of racial healing, racial reconciliation and restoration, ensuring justice and furthering equitable opportunities for all people."
Also at the meeting Thursday, the council voted 9-4 on increasing the salary of the county attorney in the county attorney budget for 2021. The ordinance will move on to the third and final reading in next month's meeting.