Best June 19 Celebrations in the USA

Host a June 16 celebration and you could participate in an even distribution of red foods: watermelon and red velvet cake, red soda and hibiscus tea, red sausage and strawberry pie. Festive and delicious, but also sobering – the color is meant to symbolize the struggle and bloodshed of African Americans. This June 19 marks 157 years since Union troops galloped into Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced to the 250,000 still enslaved people in the state that they were legally free.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation technically went into effect two years earlier in 1863, it took longer for it to be implemented in Confederate-governed states, and the furthest Confederate state. West Texas was the last to be notified. “Juneteenth” became a day of celebration for the newly liberated population, first documented in Austin in 1867, and introduced to the rest of the country during the Great Migration. For decades, thanks to a combination of Jim Crow-era restrictions and outright racism, the holiday was celebrated mostly behind closed doors by African-American households.

The Civil Rights Movement has brought a resurgence in popularity to the holiday, which both honors our nation’s second Independence Day and acknowledges the battles yet to be won. In 1980, Juneteenth became a statewide holiday in Texas, followed by 47 states. But it wasn’t until the racial reckoning of 2020 that many Americans were even told about the holiday. A campaign was soon launched to recognize it federally, and in 2021 Juneteenth became a federal holiday, meaning a year later the party is just getting started.

Here are some of the most interesting and compelling June 19 celebrations — AKA Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, or Liberation Day — taking place in the United States this year.

Waving June 19 flag. | Mark Felix/AFP/Getty Images

Montgomery, Alabama

In part because of a 1950s bus boycott that forever changed the course of history, Montgomery is widely considered the birthplace of the civil rights movement. And they’re throwing a June 19 party to match. On June 18, the Rosa Parks Museum hosts the 7th Annual June 19 Celebration, with free admission, live music and vendors, and an authentic 1950s Montgomery City Bus on display. On June 17, Manifest Liberty Gala: A Multi-Generational Gathering, which focuses on storytelling and song, and on June 18, the Riverwalk Amphitheater is where you’ll find World Diaspora Heritage Day African, a list of evenings of spoken word, theater, crafts, poetry, literature, food trucks, and at least one acrobat.

Alexandria, Virginia

In May, the Freedom House Museum reopened in Alexandria, hidden away in what remains of a large complex used to traffic thousands of black men, women and children from 1828 to 1861. Three new exhibits are On display: 1315 Duke Street, which includes archaeological artifacts and stories of people trafficked as part of the slave trade; Determined, which traces four centuries of black history in Virginia; and Before the Spirits Are Swept Away, a series of paintings by the late Sherry Z. Sanabria depicting historically significant African-American sites. The museum is set to celebrate its grand reopening on June 20, the date of the June 19 holiday observed by the federal government this year.

Richmond, Virginia

It is said that one in four African Americans can trace their ancestry to Richmond, Virginia. The city was at the center of the slave trade in the country, and their Emancipation and Freedom Monument is one of the few nationwide to commemorate slaves. On Saturday, June 18, the area’s free Juneteenth festivities take over Dorey Park in neighboring Henrico County, complete with a children’s zone, vendors and fireworks. Visitors can also trace the real-life journey of enslaved peoples by walking the self-guided Richmond Slave Trail, which features 17 markers chronicling the history of slavery in the area.

The Absolute Equality mural was unveiled last year. | Courtesy of Visit Galveston

Galveston, TX

As you can imagine, the birthplace of Juneteenth pulls out all the stops for its celebrations, which you don’t have to all be present to witness. This year, kick things off with a free webinar on June 15. Titled Where It All Began, you’ll hear stories from local historians and organizations dedicated to preserving the stories and memories of that day. June 17 brings the celebration of emancipation at the 1894 Grand Opera, complete with a gospel choir and the awards ceremony, while June 18 ushers in the annual June 19 proclamation reading (you can see what it looks like here). It is followed by a decorated parade and a day-long festival. While you’re there, check out the self-guided Freedom Walk or African-American History Tour and be sure to see Absolute Equality, a new 5,000-square-foot mural unveiled today. ‘last year.

Houston, TX

Less than an hour’s drive from Galveston, Houston’s June 19 celebration reflects the massive size of its state. In 1872, a group of former slaves purchased 10 acres of land and began using the land for their own June 19 celebrations. Emancipation Park, as it is known, was Houston’s only public park and pool open to African Americans until the 1950s. More than 150 years later, the festivities continue, kicking off June 1 and culminating with a salute day with performances by The Isley Brothers and Kool & the Gang on June 18, followed by Sheila E. and Frankie Beverly & Maze on June 19.

Dancing in Atlanta. | Megan Varner/Getty Images News

Atlanta, Georgia

MLK Jr.’s birthplace is the go-to place in Georgia for the June 19 festivities, with free events and concerts dotted around the area, including an evening with author Dr. Ibram X. Kendi at the Agnes Scott College presenting its new children’s book, good night racism. The Juneteenth Atlanta Parade & Music Festival in Centennial Olympic Park is now in its 10th year, spanning more than 300 black-owned booths, pageants and two stages. While in the area, stop at historic Oakland Cemetery for a self-guided tour, passing the resting place of influential icons like Carrie Steele Logan, founder of Atlanta’s first orphanage for African-American children , and Maynard Jackson, of Atlanta. first African-American mayor.

St. Augustine, Florida

Black history runs deep in St. Augustine, where in 1738 African Americans established the first legally sanctioned free black settlement in the United States. Now Fort Mose Historic State Park, the site was also one of the first stops of the Southern Underground Railway, serving as a sanctuary for runaway British slaves. This Juneteenth, St. Augustine will host two free chamber orchestra concerts covering spirituals and works by African-American composers: the first on June 18 at St. James Missionary Baptist Church, which dates to 1898, and the second June 19 at the majestic cathedral. Basilica, founded in 1793.

You will find a variety of red foods and drinks. | Paras Griffin/Getty Images Entertainment

Denver, Colorado

The June 19 celebrations in Denver have been happening for 70 years, so you know they know what they’re doing. 30,000 people are expected to descend on the historically African-American Five Points neighborhood for the Juneteenth Music Festival, starting with a concert with Dave East and Twista, then moving on to a full weekend of live music, vendors, stalls food, art murals, and Colorado’s oldest parade.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

The former home of Black Wall Street hosts a free, weekend-long Juneteenth Festival each year, filled with concerts, food and entertainment along Greenwood Avenue, plus wellness events and facilities interactive arts. While you’re there, learn about Greenwood Rising, a new world-class institution focused on the neighborhood’s powerful legacy and historic impact. Admission to the museum is free.

Don’t mess with the Philly Parade. | NurPhoto/Getty Images

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Cradle of Democracy has come a long way since their first June 19 parade in 2016. Join the 25,000 participants in West Philadelphia on June 19 to see floats, dancers, vendors and community leaders , followed by a festival at Malcolm X Park. Or head across town to the free block party at the African American Museum of Philadelphia to catch a performance by Talib Kweli and other special guests (including a magician). Elsewhere, Kennett Square is the perfect location for the Journey to Freedom festival, which runs from June 18-19.

Brooklyn, New York

For Juneteenth in New York, Brooklyn is the borough of choice. On June 18, Linden Park in East New York, the site of a long-running celebration, will host live performances and food trucks, while the Weeksville Heritage Center will pull out all the red foods for a June 18 food festival. to June 19. On June 19, Prospect Park BRIC will kick off the free UNITYFEST concert, co-presented by the Robert Randolph Foundation and featuring Randolph himself alongside Deborah Cox, Mali Music and others. At Brooklyn Bridge Park, Urban Park Rangers will lead discussions on the abolitionist movement in Brooklyn, while revelers behind House of Yes are hosting their own free Unityfest party, “under K Bridge.”

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit’s Juneteenth Freedom Fest has all the usual suspects: a huge block party, art installations and a Jubilee walk through black-owned businesses. But they also remembered that Sunday June 19 is also Father’s Day, so included in the festivities is a “Cool Dad Contest”. Think your dad has what it takes? Applications are now open. Elsewhere, the Juneteenth Jubilee Freedom Weekend at the Charles H. Wright Museum focuses on the history of the holiday, with documentaries, a concert and an Underground Railroad scavenger hunt at five historic sites around Detroit.

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist’s Senior Travel Writer.

Corina C. Butler