Launched by African Americans in 1866, Juneteenth, or June 19, commemorates the contributions of Black Americans to society, their resilience in overcoming their history of enslavement, and their continued fight against systemic racism.
Sometimes called Emancipation Day, Juneteenth recalls the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, nearly three years after President Abraham Lincoln had issued a proclamation freeing enslaved people within the rebellious states during the U.S. Civil War. (Texas slave owners had ignored it.) The upcoming June 19 will be just the second time Juneteenth is observed as a U.S. federal holiday, after President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act in 2021. The day will include parades, speeches, sermons, concerts and food festivals. Here are some moments from recent years’ Juneteenth events:
In this Denver parade on June 19, 2021, a marcher’s sign saying “I Am Juneteenth” refers to signs held during the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike, joined by civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The sanitation workers signs reading “I Am a Man” were demands for equality, dignity and respect. According to the National Civil Rights Museum, located in Memphis, the origins of “I Am a Man” grew out of workplace economic disparities between African Americans and white Americans, reflecting the struggles of Black communities in the aftermath of slavery’s abolition.
Revelers pose for a photograph at a car parade on June 19, 2021, in Inglewood, a suburb of Los Angeles. California recognized Juneteenth as a holiday in 2003, and its cities often host multiple celebrations in different neighborhoods. For Juneteenth 2022, Inglewood will showcase live performances by African American artists, African drum sessions, books by African American authors, an African-themed marketplace and a children’s art space. In the Los Angeles area, some Juneteenth events this year will be sponsored by large companies, such as Wells Fargo and McDonalds, and small businesses, such as The Architects Collective.
Johnnie Alston leads the Baltimore All-Stars Marching Unit down Auburn Avenue in Atlanta during a parade on June 19, 2021. This year, Atlanta will host a Black history parade and offer free concerts and fireworks. Also, Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery — the final resting place of many of the city’s noted citizens — will host walking tours of African American burial grounds, exploring the lives of those who fought to overcome the ill effects of slavery and discrimination.
Groups gather in Washington’s Black Lives Matter Plaza for the Million Moe March on June 19, 2021, as part of the city’s annual Juneteenth activities (“moe” is a local slang term for “friend”). The marchers proceed from downtown to the U Street Corridor, many dancing to go-go music (Washington’s own brand of funk music), as they voice support for equity and justice.
Malik Hall, the head football coach at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, dances at a celebration on June 19, 2021, in South Portland. Throughout the state, Juneteenth will be marked by festivals. For example, at Knowlton Park in Ellsworth, an event called “Illuminating the Continuum of the Black Experience in Maine” will feature live music, local artisans, and poets and other writers.
People dance in Boston’s Nubian Square during a Juneteenth commemoration on June 18, 2021. This year’s Juneteenth festivities will include a Nubian Square block party with deejays and food provided by popular Black-owned food trucks. Boston’s Fenway Park baseball stadium, home to Major League Baseball’s Red Sox team, will offer ticket holders commemorative jerseys adorned with the Juneteenth flag (which uses the same colors as the U.S. flag to show that the formerly enslaved and their descendants are free Americans).
People pray outside of Reedy Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 19, 2021, in Galveston. Many African American churches throughout the United States will hold special services on Juneteenth in 2022. Galveston’s Avenue L Baptist Church will host speakers and church choirs, for instance. At Galveston’s Grand Opera House, the Nia Cultural Center will offer gospel music performances and honor those who have fought for freedom, equality and justice for African Americans. The city will host an Emancipation March and festival.