, an annual commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States and the nation's newest federal holiday, takes place Monday, June 19. Also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth has been observed by communities across the country, in different ways, for more than 150 years.
From small gatherings centered around family and prayer to parades, rodeos, races, Miss Juneteenth contests and cookouts with traditional foods,have grown tremendously in recent years. Since President Joe Biden signed legislation to declare Juneteenth a national holiday in 2021, towns and cities in every corner of the U.S. now host a broad range of educational and recreational events that , art and culture throughout the long weekend.
Celebrating Juneteenth may mean taking steps to learn more about the holiday and its significance. According to Juneteenth.com, reading about the history of Juneteenth, the evolution of Juneteenth celebrations and how the spirit of the holiday resonates with Black Americans today is a valuable place to start.
But with big events set to happen everywhere from California to New York over the next few days, there is no shortage of festivals, concerts, art exhibits and other activities to check out in honor of this year's Juneteenth. Here are some highlights.
The earliest documented Juneteenth celebration took place in Galveston, Texas, in 1866, the Galveston Historical Foundation reports. The Gulf Coast city is integral to the origin of the holiday itself, which dates back further than the first celebration to June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, a Union General during the Civil War, arrived there to notify enslaved people that they had been freed under the Emancipation Proclamation. Signed into law more than two years prior, the proclamation did not start to take effect for more than 250,000 people still enslaved in Texas until that day.
Communities began to observe Juneteenth with family gatherings and prayer, and, decades later, people across Texas held larger celebrations to honor the holiday, with formerly enslaved people making pilgrimages with their descendants back to Galveston annually on June 19. Festivities have continued every year in Galveston since the first one more than a century-and-a-half ago.
This weekend, people can attend the Emancipation Gospel Celebration hosted by the Juneteenth Legacy Project, a nonprofit organization based in Galveston, on Friday night, and the Galveston Juneteenth Festival and Juneteenth Parade and Picnic on Saturday. On Monday, the city will host its 44th annual reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.
People in and around Washington, D.C., have celebrated Black history on Juneteenth for years. This weekend, some of the district's leading cultural centers will hold events to honor the holiday, many of which are free to attend.
An outdoor film screening of Channing Godfrey Peoples' critically praised 2020 drama "Miss Juneteenth" is happening Friday night at The Kennedy Center. On Saturday, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is hosting Juneteenth Community Day, where visitors can tour the museum grounds, watch culinary demonstrations, attend African drumming workshops and create art inspired by the museum's collection. Reservations for indoor activities at the museum are already sold out, but tickets are not required for outdoor events.
On Sunday night, The Scotland Juneteenth Heritage Festival's Freedom Day concert will feature performances by Wyclef Jean, Tarrus Riley with Dean Fraser & Black Soil Band, Patrice Roberts, DJ Ablaze and others at the Anthem concert hall.
New York City
The nonprofit organization Juneteenth NYC will host New York City's 14th annual Juneteenth NY Festival this weekend, with events planned over the course of three days from Friday to Sunday.
The theme of this year's celebration is "Kaleidoscope of Black Culture." Programs include a virtual summit and two-day festival, held in Brooklyn, which "gathers 20,000+ attendees local to the NYC community to enjoy a vibrant day of rich culture through music, dance, poetry, skits, history, vendors, and family activities," according to the event description. The weekend concludes with a parade, concert and fashion show on Sunday.
The Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade and Festival bills itself as the largest Juneteenth celebration in the U.S., having grown since its introduction in 2016 to draw crowds of more than 25,000 to the event held annually in West Philadelphia.
The upcoming celebration on Sunday includes a parade as well as a marketplace and art festival at the city's historic Malcolm X Park, where hundreds of vendors are expected to set up shop. A concert is also scheduled to take place there in the evening, featuring hip-hop artists like Lil Mo, DJ Cupid and Fatman Scoop.
CBS Chicago will host the 4th annualin the city's Morgan Park this weekend. The event, which is free and open to the public throughout the day on Saturday and into the evening, will feature music, dancing, and drumming, as well as hand-made goods by local vendors, according to the station.
Saturday's festival is also offering free health screenings via a mobile clinic, where people can get vaccinations, dental exams and access to mental health resources.
Many Black Americans formerly enslaved in southern states moved to Los Angeles in the decades following the Civil War. This weekend, the Southern California city hosts one of the country's most prolific event rosters to honor Juneteenth. People can attend film screenings, special museum exhibits and neighborhood gatherings, as well as the Juneteenth Festival on Monday at Leimert Park Village, which invites attendees to celebrate the holiday "through art, music, food and education."
The second Juneteenth: A Global Celebration of Freedom concert also takes place Monday at the Greek Theater, with performances by Miguel, Kirk Franklin, SWV, Davido, Coi Leray and Jodeci. CNN will broadcast the show live.
Juneteenth celebrations in Boston started Wednesday morning with a concert at the "Embrace" monument on Boston Common, which opened the second annual Embrace Ideas Festival for Juneteenth hosted by Embrace Boston, an organization that aims to dismantle structural racism through art, community, research and policy work, according to its mission statement.
The theme of Embrace Boston's upcoming three-day festival is "Here and Present, the Art of Reclaiming Space and Time," and it includes panels focusing on creativity, Black resistance, and cooking, as well as a block party scheduled for Friday night. Although the panels are sold out, tickets are not required to attend the party at Roxbury Community College.
"We hope people walk through the Juneteenth door that's closest to them and really start celebrating and centering Black folks," Imari Paris Jeffries, the executive director of Embrace Boston, toldearlier this week.
"I think the beautiful part about recognizing holidays is you get the opportunity to see the things that are important to other communities and also see yourself in each other," added Gregory Ball, the organization's director of production and digital strategy.
"Really the best parts of Boston is the learning of Boston so we spend the first few days with panels, discussions and then at the end of the week, we have our block party," Ball said.
Juneteenth celebrations of all kinds are taking place across the country through the long weekend, with multi-day festivities scheduled in Atlanta, Austin, Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis and other major cities nationwide.
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