Though Juneteenth has been celebrated in the African-American community since 1866. The enactment of Juneteenth National Independence Day on June 17, 2021, provided national recognition and memorialized an important milestone in African-American history. The date, June 19, 1865, when the last enslaved people in Texas were liberated, marks the effective end of American slavery.
Through various community-focused events, the Juneteenth holiday enables the national dialogue on race to continue and offers another opportunity to celebrate Black history and culture. From music festivals to freedom walks, these eight cities host some of the nation’s finest Juneteenth events with the goal of uplifting the Black community and honoring the enduring pursuit of racial equality in the US.
When it comes to Juneteenth festivities, it’s hard to top Galveston, the birthplace of Juneteenth. The city hosts a variety of events in addition to the festival at Menard Park 2222 28th Street on the Seawall, including a special concert from the Galveston Symphony, film screenings, comedy shows, a gala, and an emancipation celebration. Two of the most popular Juneteenth events in Galveston are the annual picnic and parade and the annual reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in front of the official Juneteenth monument at the historic 1859 Ashton Villa.
Not to be missed is the Emancipation March, which is a reenactment of the march to the Galveston Courthouse to hear General Order No. 3 that declare all slaves are free. Also worth visiting is the Absolute Equality Mural, a 5,000-square-foot art installation located near the site of Major General Gordon Granger’s office.
At Houston’s Emancipation Park — founded in 1872 by four freedmen and their communities to celebrate emancipation and Juneteenth — there will be a Juneteenth festival starting on June 17. On that Saturday, a free music festival will feature performances by artists such as V Michael McKay and Step Rideau, as well local vendors selling food and other products and a morning freedom run.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston’s family friendly Juneteenth celebrations take place at Riverfront Park on the 17 and will feature live performances, art, children’s’ games, and cultural food. The day of the festival concludes with a fireworks show finale. Also not to be missed: the Root of Soul J19th Fest, which features live performances, a poetry slam, and an all-you-can-eat crab shack. For events all week long, turn to the Lowcountry Juneteenth Week, which will have music, food, and culture and educational programs.
Richmond Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities is hosting its second annual Jubilation in June Festival with live music, food, vendors, and family friendly activities at Intermediate Terminal. Strangeways Brewing is hosting a burlesque Juneteenth show on June 16, while a free and family friendly event at Dorey Park will have vendors, food trucks, and a fireworks show.
The annual Juneteenth Atlanta Parade & Music Festival will take place at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta from June 16 to June 18. The event will include a Black History Parade, live music, food and handmade goods vendors, a fireworks show, a Gemini Birthday Boogie, family-friendly games and activities, and double Dutch presentations.
At the Atlanta History Center, Juneteenth programming includes a series of curated experiences that explore the history of the holiday and Black innovation, life, and excellence from emancipation to the present day. There will also be a party on Swan Lawn that offers music, games, food, and drinks.
The “Bluff City” has been hosting an annual Juneteenth event for 30 years. This year, the Memphis Juneteenth Festival spans the week of June 12 with featured speakers, luncheons, a freedom walk/run, youth showcases, and vendors.
Afrocentric Oakland is presenting the city’s 14th annual Juneteenth festival on June 17 at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater. This year, it will highlight music, food, vendors, wellness workshops, art, youth activities, and a Father’s Day tribute at the Fam Bam.
Washington, District of Columbia
The Juneteenth Freedom Festival starts on June 15 with the Juneteenth Honors awards and music show at the historic Warner Theatre. The following day will have a book and bike giveaway at Franklin Park. On June 17, the Juneteenth Career Fair will include representatives from major brands and corporations who will share resources for diverse candidates, career panels, and breakout sessions for attendees. Later that day, the Freedom Festival Community Block Party at Franklin Square Park is a free gathering with music and community events, games, and activities for the whole family.