Knoxville leaders share excitement about Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Juneteenth is now a federal holiday. President Biden signed the bill Thursday making it official. The president’s signature just gave this year’s Juneteenth celebrations a new meaning.

Organizers with Knoxville’s MLK Commission have spent the better part of this year planning a Juneteenth celebration, but commission chair Deborah Porter says they didn’t see this coming.

“We decided, let’s have something at the world’s fair park and as we talked about it, it just got bigger and bigger and bigger. Of course, we didn’t know that Juneteenth was going to be made a national holiday which gives what we’re doing a little more credence,” Porter said.

It wasn’t just an exciting occasion for those already planning to mark the holiday, but also for those like civil rights leader Reverend Harold Middlebrook, who’s lived through some of America’s best and worst moments.

“Over the last 60 or more years, I have been singing ‘We Shall Overcome.’ And sometimes, it gets real questionable are we going to make it in my lifetime. But with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and with the celebration of Juneteenth, it says to me there’s still hope for this country,” Middlebrook said.

Going forward, on June 19, the country will not only be celebrating freedom, but progress.

“They will celebrate not only because we are having the Juneteenth celebration, but they will celebrate because now it’s official. We can celebrate and know that around the country, everyone will have a celebration if not this year, possibly next year,” Porter said.

The MLK Commission’s Juneteenth celebration will take place Saturday, June 19 at World’s Fair Park. It starts at 1 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

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