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Juneteenth should be celebrated like Fourth of July, says SLC NAACP president

Jun 17, 2022, 11:30 AM

Juneteenth flag in front of City-County building....

Betty Sawyer, with the Utah Juneteenth Festival and Holiday Committee, speaks as she joins Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and leaders from the Black community, City Council, law enforcement and the state to raise the Juneteenth flag at the Salt Lake City-County Building on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. Photo credit: Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News.

SALT LAKE CITY — We’ve got two holidays this coming Sunday, Father’s Day and Juneteenth. 2022 is the first year that Utah will celebrate Juneteenth as a state holiday.  

The holiday commemorates the days in 1865 when the last slaves in Texas received the announcement giving freedom to enslaved people in the state.

Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake City branch of the NAACP, said the term “teenth” has some significance to it.

“Some folks in Texas got the word, roughly like thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth and on. Until they finally said ‘at least by the nineteenth of June’ that they had received word that slaves are all free.” Williams said.

Williams said she wants more local businesses to recognize Juneteenth as a company holiday. 

“We do expect them to close for the holiday. Just like the different government offices, the banks, the post offices and the state government offices as well,” Williams said, adding, “We do want folks to not only have it as a day off but [as] an opportunity that they can share with their family and friends and constituents different things that’s going on in the community surrounding the celebration of Juneteenth.”

Williams said she hopes we come to celebrate Juneteenth like we would any other major holiday.

“What we consider it is our emancipation day. And we want folks to celebrate Juneteenth as well how they celebrate the fourth of July,” Williams said.

“It’s a jubilee, it’s a time that we can all come together and celebrate,” Williams added.

Related: Juneteenth flag will fly at Salt Lake City and County Building Tuesday morning

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Juneteenth should be celebrated like Fourth of July, says SLC NAACP president