The Ultimate Guide to Juneteenth in Texas
Celebrate the newest national holiday all around the Lonestar State.
The newest federal holiday is right around the corner. Officially recognized by the United States government as of June 17, 2021, Juneteenth has its roots firmly planted in Texas. The day commemorates when the news of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation finally reached enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas in 1865. People celebrate Emancipation Day in a variety of different ways. You might head out to a rodeo or family reunion. And you’re more than likely to sing the Black national anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing at some point during the day. But above all, those who celebrate are guaranteed to find community and some damn good food (red velvet cake included). Here’s a list of various events taking place across the state of Texas where you can enjoy the festivities of Juneteenth.
Saturday, June 18 - Sunday June, 19
A historic park in Houston’s Third Ward is reaching a massive milestone with this year’s Juneteenth celebration. Back in 1872, four newly freed men founded Emancipation Park to commemorate their community and, of course, their emancipation. This year is the park’s 150th-year-anniversary. There are a series of thoughtful talks headed up by community leaders and artists throughout the month leading up to the two-day celebration on the 18th and 19th. It is guaranteed to be an unforgettable event with performances from the likes of funk icons, the Isley Brothers and Kool and the Gang.
Saturday, June 18
No modern article about Juneteenth is complete without the mention of Ms. Opal Lee. In 2016, at the age of 89, Ms. Opal Lee declared her plan to walk 1400 miles from Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington DC to gain support for Congress to declare Juneteenth a national holiday. She walked 2.5 miles each day to symbolize the 2.5 years it took for news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach Black people in Texas. Her efforts are directly responsible for President Joe Biden officially making Juneteenth a national holiday on June 17, 2021. This year, you can join Ms. Opal Lee on another 2.5-mile walk as she continues to further spread education and awareness of the Black freedom struggle. You can register to walk with her virtually or join her in-person in Fort Worth.
Friday, June 17 - Monday, June 20
The Juneteenth festival in San Antonio brings a weekend full of celebratory options with a Friday fish fry and a Saturday barbecue dinner. Watch musicians like Young James Brown, P. Funk Outlawz, and Ruben-V. Sunday offers festival-goers a chance to see gospel performances featuring beloved locals Mama Dee and Gary Givens. To cap off the four days of festivities, the event organizers will host a golf tournament the following Monday.
Saturday, June 18
Austinites can celebrate Juneteenth with a morning parade leading straight into an all-day park festival. Marching bands, steppers, and a whole lot of community—the Juneteenth Parade remains a strong tradition in historically Black East Austin that faces rapid gentrification. Participants will travel from MLK Blvd. down to Chestnut Ave./Pleasant Valley. The festival brings great food, vendors, live music, and a stunning fireworks show.
Saturday, June 25
A Texas-sized tradition takes place every year over at the Longview fairgrounds. The Annual Longview Juneteenth Black Rodeo, known as “The baddest show on dirt,” features entertainers, cowboys, and cowgirls competing for cash prizes in activities like barrel racing, team roping, horse racing, and more. The event is thrown by the Real Cowboy Association, whose mission revolves around highlighting the heritage of African American cowboys and cowgirls. This year also sees performances by “The King of Southern Soul Blues,” Sir Charles Jones, and rapper Lil’O of the Game Face Entertainment label.
Saturday, June 18
First and foremost, legendary hip hop duo Kid N Play is going to be at this friendly get-together. While that should be more than enough to get you out and celebrating, the Round Rock festival offers plenty more. Popular R&B songwriter VEDO the Singer, the beloved DJ Jay Shalé, and a variety of local artists buff out the star-studded line-up. In addition to the specialty food and retail vendors, participants can expect a barbecue cook-off and moonwalks for the kids.
Thursday, June 16 - Monday, June 20
The Black LGBTQIA+ group Dallas Southern Pride is hosting this fun multi-day Juneteenth celebration. With a myriad of club events and rooftop parties, the Unity Weekend brings out some of the livelier events on this list. Catch performances by groups like the hip hop duo City Girls and rapper Moneybagg Yo. Activities include the late-night party, the Black Royalty Emancipation Ball, and the Kirk Myers Signature Brunch & Pool Party. These are the events to check out if you’re looking for a night out as opposed to the family reunion vibes of other Juneteenth festivities.
Sunday, June 19
Beaumont has one of the highest percentages of Black residents in not just Texas but the country. Fittingly, the community is showing up with a great line-up of festivities. Taking place on Main street in downtown Beaumont, this event gives participants the chance to compete to see who makes the best pork ribs, chicken, and turkey in town. If showing off your barbecue skills is not your speed, there will also be plenty of food trucks to buy a snack from. Fill up on a solid plate of food and enjoy the fireworks, live music, and car show.
Saturday, June 18
The Brazos Valley African American Heritage and Cultural Society brings a nice twist to the standard Juneteenth proceedings with an emphasis on the blues. Taking the form of a block party along 21st street, event-goers will be able to listen to a myriad of moving blues performances as they gather among community. The Saturday celebration will also feature a morning parade, an afternoon park celebration, and an evening gospel festival.