Juneteenth has been proclaimed the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was recognized in 1983.
The Crossett City Council also added it to the official observances kept by city employees.
President Joe Biden made the announcement June 17, two days before many in the nation were set to observe the holiday, which marks the day when the news of emancipation from enslavement reached some of the last American outposts where slavery was still practiced in 1865.
The memorial celebration of the June 19, 1865 announcement became an annual event in Galveston, Texas, and had spread to 47 of the 50 states with some form of official recognition — in the case of Arkansas, it is a state “day of memorial.” The move to make the day a federal holiday has gained significant traction in recent years.
“Juneteenth is a day of profound weight and power,” Biden said when making the proclamation Thursday. “A day in which we remember the moral stain and terrible toll of slavery on our country –- what I’ve long called America’s original sin. A long legacy of systemic racism, inequality, and inhumanity.
“But it is a day that also reminds us of our incredible capacity to heal, hope, and emerge from our darkest moments with purpose and resolve.”
The President continued on to say that Juneteenth calls Americans to recommit to the work of equity, equality and justice.”
That work has been led throughout our history by abolitionists and educators, civil rights advocates and lawyers, courageous activists and trade unionists, public officials, and everyday Americans who have helped make real the ideals of our founding documents for all,” he said.
“Psalm 30 proclaims that ‘weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’ Juneteenth marks both the long, hard night of slavery and discrimination, and the promise of a brighter morning to come.”
Biden’s proclamation came after signing Senate Bill 475, which passed the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent. Fourteen members of the House, all Republicans, voted against the measure; all four of Arkansas’ Congressmen voted to approve the new holiday.
Mayor Crystal Marshall asked the City Council on Monday to add the holiday to the employee handbook.
Following the unanimous approval of the request, which was formally put forward in a motion by Councilwoman Sheila Phillips and seconded by Councilman James Knight, Marshall said city employees would observe the holiday on June 19 unless it falls on a weekend.
If Juneteenth falls on a Saturday, city employees will observe it on the Friday before; if it falls on a Sunday, the city will observe it on the following Monday.