On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and his Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas. It was then, the troops informed everyone that all enslaved were now free. A full two-and-half years after President Lincoln read the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Now, this date, known as the day that all were considered “free”, is celebrated as Juneteenth.
The first celebration of Juneteenth occurred in 1866, and celebrations continue now more than 150 years later. Calls for Juneteenth to be an official federal holiday have only grown stronger amid an international reckoning around civil rights and racism. However, we don’t need it to be “official” in order to celebrate it anyway.
To honor the holiday, we’ve rounded up both in-person and virtual celebrations to cultivate a greater appreciation of Black history—and to remind us that #BlackLivesMatter this day and every day.
Los Angeles, CA: Juneteenth Joy Virtual Celebration
On Saturday, June 19, the Los Angeles Public Library will host its “Juneteenth Joy Virtual Celebration”, which includes a performance by DJ pastelShade. The library asks all to come “share the connection we have through song in this communal music experience.” They add that “This event will invite movement through dancing, ancestor remembrance through ritual, and an opportunity to collectively celebrate our liberation and resilience.” See all the info here.
New York City, NY: Juneteenth NYC
From June 18 through June 20, New York City will host the Juneteenth NY Festival. The three days are packed with events, but perhaps most importantly, is POMP. “It’s our play on Sir Edward Elgar’s classic tune of Pomp and Circumstance that when heard often signifies graduation or a regal entrance musical ensemble designed for royalty,” the event listing explains. “Our Juneteenth Pomp is a family-based experience that leads youth 14-19 years old into a cascade of learning through leadership training. We welcome you to design and present their interpretation of success in entrepreneurship to fruition.” See more about the festival here.
Birmingham, AL: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s Juneteenth Celebration
The Institute’s celebration is back in person this year and includes a day-long festival to honor the date. The community is also invited to visit the galleries at BCRI for free from 10am to 4pm. Those interested can snag their timed tickets, but the center encourages all to still socially distance and wear a mask. Grab tickets here.
Milwaukee, WI: Juneteenth Parade
After taking 2020 off from in-person events, Milwaukee’s Juneteenth parade is back. According to Milwaukee Magazine, the parade will begin at 9:30am at 14th and Atkinson and end at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive at 4:30pm. There will also be a contest hosted by the Northcott Neighborhood House, Inc. and Jammin’ 98.3 to declare a Miss Juneteenth 2021 and Little Miss Juneteenth 2021. See more information about the parade here.
Flint, MI: Juneteenth Festival and Parade
Flint’s 2021 Juneteenth celebration will be its largest yet. From June 18 to June 20, the city will host an array of events, from a vendor expo to a gospel festival and a parade down Saginaw Street ending at Berston Field House. Don’t miss Black Wall Street on June 18, featuring “Flint’s strong entrepreneurial spirit and black-owned businesses” from 3:00pm to 6:00pm. See all event listings here.
Denver, CO: Juneteenth Music Festival
The Juneteenth Music Festival is back in person in Denver for 2021. However, if you can’t make it there in time, fear not, the festival is also going virtual. JMF Corporation and Denver Community Media will also host a six-hour live broadcast on June 18, starting at 2:00pm local time. All you need to do is log on to your phone or smart TV to view performances, panels, and their 2021 Dream Big Awards. See more information here.
Atlanta, GA: The Center for Civil and Human Rights Jubilee
On June 18, the Center will host a virtual program to celebrate Juneteenth through “music, history, and culture.” The program will help explore the history of Juneteenth and “the way it is revered across our nation, and the new traditions being found for this joyous occasion.” Guests are invited to log on to enjoy music “inspired by this history, hear from a speaker about Juneteenth’s continued legacy, and find a new piece of your tradition.” Register for the event here.
Cincinnati, OH: National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s Lift Every Voice and Sing Event
On June 15, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is set to join nine museums and historical institutions to commemorate Juneteenth through BlkFreedom.org. On this day, the organization will showcase the documentary surrounding “the national exploration of the deep-rooted anthem “Life Every Voice and Sing” through the eyes of historic museums and anthropologists from across the United States.” The film premieres at 12:00pm EST. See more on BlkFreedom.org.
Hilton Head Island, SC: Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park’s Juneteenth Celebration
From June 17 to June 20, the Mitchelville Freedom Park is honoring Juneteenth with both in-person and virtual events. On June 17, join the live stream event to watch “Joe McGill explore the life and living habits of the people of Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park.” For those in the area, the park is also hosting a live concert with The Hamiltones on June 19. See all events here.
Other notable destinations to visit
As travel restrictions start to ease, consider visiting these important institutions—from museums to historical sites to powerful monuments. (Always make sure to check each site’s up-to-date details on opening times and visiting guidelines before planning your trip.)
- The National Memorial for Peace and Justice
- The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration
- Freedom Rides Museum
- Civil Rights Memorial Center
- Rosa Parks Museum
Los Angeles, CA
Sandy Spring, MD
Big Rapids, MI
Kansas City, MO
Lower Manhattan, NY