Where to Celebrate Juneteenth Around the Country This Year
With just a couple years down as a federal holiday, the country’s Jubilee Day festivities are just getting started.
Hit up a Juneteenth celebration and you might partake in a homogenous spread of red foods: watermelon and red velvet cake, red soda and hibiscus tea, red sausages and strawberry pie. Delicious, and festive, but also sobering—the color is believed to symbolize the struggle and bloodshed of African Americans. This June 19 marks 158 years since Union troops galloped into Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced to the 250,000 people still enslaved in the state that they were legally free.
Though the Emancipation Proclamation technically went into effect two years earlier in 1863, it took longer for it to be implemented in states ruled by the Confederacy, and the westernmost Confederate state of Texas was the last to be notified. “Juneteenth” became a day of celebration by the newly freed 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 plain old racism, the holiday was mostly celebrated by African American households behind closed doors.
The Civil Rights Movement brought renewed popularity to the holiday, which both honors our nation’s second day of independence and acknowledges the battles still yet to be won. In 1980, Juneteenth became a statewide holiday in Texas, with 47 states following suit. But it wasn’t until the racial reckoning of 2020 that many Americans were even made aware of the holiday. A campaign was soon launched to recognize it nationwide, and in 2021, Juneteenth became a federal holiday—which means one year later, the party is just getting started.
This year, 28 states—more than half, with Connecticut, Minnesota, Nevada, and Tennessee new to the fold—plus the District of Columbia, will recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday. Here are some of the best and most compelling Juneteenth—a.k.a. Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, or Liberation Day—celebrations going down around the US this year.
In part due to a 1950s bus boycott that forever changed the course of history, Montgomery is widely regarded as the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. And they throw a Juneteenth bash to match. On June 17, the historic Rosa Parks Museum hosts the 8th Annual Juneteenth Celebration, with free admission, live music and vendors, and an authentic 1950s Montgomery City Bus on display. That same day is the 2023 Juneteenth R&B Rewind Celebration at the Riverwalk Amphitheater, complete with entertainment, kids’ activities, and food trucks, while the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts kicks off a morning of creativity with a second line-style parade, followed by live music and a collaborative mural project. And as a bonus, the traveling Smithsonian exhibit The Bias Inside Us, which details the psychology of implicit bias, is currently on display at the museum. Montgomery is also home to the Civil Rights Memorial Center, the Freedom Rides Museum, and Equal Justice Initiative’s sobering The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, located near a railway station that was once used in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
San Francisco, California
Get the kids ready: San Francisco’s Fillmore district—once called the “Harlem of the West”—will be home to eight full blocks of celebration on June 17, with free admission to live performances, food trucks, a hair and fashion show, sports competitions, and a car show. There will also be carnival rides and—no doubt—some delicious carnival food. Then on June 19, stop by the Kimpton Alton Hotel at Fisherman's Wharf for a free Juneteenth poetry reading, presented in partnership with the Living Room Reading Series & Salon.
Denver’s Juneteenth celebrations have been happening for over 70 years, so you know they know what they’re doing. 30,000 people are expected to descend upon the historically African American Five Points neighborhood for the Juneteenth Music Festival on June 17 and 18. Expect a full weekend of live music, vendors, food stalls, art, and the longest-running parade in Colorado.
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 US. Now Fort Mose Historic State Park, the site was also one of the original stops on the Southern Underground Railroad, serving as a sanctuary for people who escaped the British slave trade. On June 19, the St. Augustine Music Festival will be held at the stately Cathedral Basilica, established in 1793. It features works by mixed-race British composer and conductor Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, an important figure in Black British history who toured the US three times in the early 1900s. The city’s Lincolnville Museum will also host a weekend of events including music, lectures, and museum exhibits.
MLK Jr.’s birthplace is the go-to for Georgia’s Juneteenth festivities, with free events and concerts sprinkled around the area as well as the Juneteenth Atlanta Parade & Music Festival in Centennial Olympic Park. Over a decade old, the colossal event spans over 300 Black-owned booths, historical reenactments, and two stages. While you’re in the area, stop by the Historic Oakland Cemetery for a self-guided tour that takes you past the resting places of influential icons like Carrie Steele Logan, founder of Atlanta’s first orphanage for African American children, and Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African American mayor. The cemetery will also have its very own Juneteenth celebration on June 17.
Bourbon City is home to the Muhammed Ali Center, the Roots 101 African American Museum, and the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, among other prominent local Black heritage destinations. Each year, the city’s Juneteenth Festival spans 10 days of events featuring plenty of food, concerts, and bourbon tastings. There's also the MELANnaire Marketplace, which showcases Black vendors while the free Juneteenth with Lil Jon concert hypes up the Jeffersonville Riverstage.
Detroit’s Juneteenth Freedom Fest has all the usual suspects: a huge block party, art installations, and a Jubilee stroll through Black-owned businesses. But they’ve also remembered that Sunday, June 18 doubles as Father’s Day, so included in the festivities is a “Cool Dad Contest” and a Dad Cook-Off. Think your dad has what it takes? Elsewhere, the Juneteenth Jubilee Celebration at the Charles H. Wright Museum emphasizes the history of the holiday, with music, storytelling, a community dance, and more.
Jackson goes all out this Juneteenth with a schedule of events all around the city. Mississippi Homecoming Juneteenth Celebration promises a weekend of fun including a block party at Junteenth on Farish on June 17, a White Party that same day, and a concert and Father’s Day party on June 18. Afterwards, the Mississippi Museum of History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum—a.k.a Two Mississippi Museums—will host an indoor and outdoor Jubilee on June 19.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
In Portsmouth and surrounding areas, you’ll find events honoring the many Black residents who have enriched New England with their contributions. Reading the Bones: Celebrating the African Diaspora is a weeklong celebration with events including a bus tour of Canterbury Shaker Village exploring its rich medical history, dance performances, art exhibits, and a traditional African drumming performance at the African Burying Ground in Portsmouth. All that plus a reggae festival featuring legends like Marcia Griffiths and Brigadier Jerry complemented by a spread of delicious Caribbean foods.
New York, New York
This Juneteenth in New York, have your pick of boroughs. On June 17, Linden Park in East New York, Brooklyn, the site of a long-running celebration, will host performances and food trucks, while the Weeksville Heritage Center throws the second-annual Juneteenth Food Festival on June 18 and 19. And over in Prospect Park, BRIC will host the free UNITYFEST Concert at the Lena Horne Bandshell on June 17, co-presented by the Robert Randolph Foundation.
In Queens, Juneteenth in Queens takes over Roy Wilkins Park on June 19, while on June 17, the Staten Island Museum will put on an event entitled Using Genealogy to Uncover Our African American Past. Last but not least, Manhattan’s Juneteenth celebrations happen in Times Square with Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth (June 18); Carnegie Hall (June 19); and all over Central Park, from the historic Seneca Village on June 17 to Rumsey Playfield, which hosts a hip hop concert on June 19.
On June 16 and 17, the third-annual Cleveland Juneteenth Freedom Fest takes over downtown Cleveland with a block party, fireworks, and a trunk show. From June 16 to June 18, Cleveland’s Pivot Center for Art, Dance and Expression hosts the 14th-annual Juneteenth African Dance & Drum Fest, while on June 19, the African American Cultural Garden will celebrate with a red food tasting, games, and children’s events.
The former home of Black Wall Street throws a free weekend-long Juneteenth Festival each year, stocked with concerts, food, and entertainment along Greenwood Avenue, plus wellness events, interactive art installations, and a 5K and Fun Run. While you’re there, check out Greenwood Rising, a world-class institution focused on the neighborhood’s powerful legacy and historical impact. Timed-entry tickets are required to visit, so be sure to snatch yours up ahead of time.
The birthplace of democracy has come a long way since their first Juneteenth parade back in 2016. See for yourself on June 18 alongside 25,000 attendees in West Philadelphia for floats, dancers, vendors, and community leaders, followed by a festival in Malcolm X Park. Then head across town on June 19 to a free block party at the African American Museum in Philadelphia where you can catch a performance by Spinderella and other special guests.
Providence, Rhode Island
Rhode Island is making moves to make Juneteenth an official state holiday, with a bill currently passing through the House of Representatives. Regardless, their Juneteenth party game is strong. This year marks the fifth year they’ve run the weekend-long celebration hosted by an all-female African American board of directors. A comedy show kicks it off on June 16, followed by a free Youth Day plus a Providence Black History Walking Tour on June 17. The festival itself is goes down on June 18 at Roger Williams Park, with live music, speeches, and fireworks.
As you can imagine, the birthplace of Juneteenth goes all out with its celebrations. Start at the Emancipation Celebration, which comes to the Galveston Grand 1894 Opera House on June 16 with a gospel choir and award presentation. Then on June 17 take your pick of a parade and picnic, a day-long festival by the seawall, a free historical event for teens, a comedy festival, and much more. On June 19, the much-anticipated Emancipation March arrives with the annual Juneteenth Proclamation Reading (you can get a preview here). While you’re on the island, definitely check out the self-guided Freedom Walk and the African American History Tour, and make sure you see Absolute Equality, a new 5,000-square-foot mural unveiled in 2022.
Less than an hour away from Galveston, Houston’s Juneteenth celebrations reflect the city’s massive role in the event’s origins. In 1872, a group of formerly enslaved people purchased 10 acres of land and began using the plot for their own Juneteenth observances. Emancipation Park, as it’s known, was the only public park and swimming pool in Houston open to African Americans until the 1950s. Over 150 years later, the festivities keep on keeping on, with the inaugural Freedom Run and Walk on June 17, culminating later that day in a musical salute with performances by gospel artist V Michael McKay, Zydeco aficionado Step Rideau, and R&B legends Lakeside and the SOS Band.
Alexandria, Virginia is a city rich with Black history. This Juneteenth, hop on a Black History Bus Tour with Manumission Tour Company and explore the legacy of Alexandria’s many changemakers. Elsewhere, the historic Carlyle House will host a free Juneteenth celebration in collaboration with regional arts group the Athenaeum, while on June 19, the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices ensemble presents a free Juneteenth concert.
Last year, the Freedom House Museum reopened in Alexandria, stashed in what remains of a large complex involved in the trafficking of thousands of Black men, women, and children from 1828 to 1861. Three new exhibitions will be on view: 1315 Duke Street, which includes archaeological artifacts and stories of the enslaved; 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.
It’s been said that one in four African Americans can trace their origins back to Richmond, Virginia. The city was at the center of the slave trade in the US, and their Emancipation and Freedom Monument is one of the few nationwide that commemorates enslaved peoples. On Saturday, June 17, the area’s free Juneteenth festivities are taking over Dorey Park in nearby Henrico County, complete with a kids’ zone, vendors, and fireworks. Visitors can also retrace the actual path of the enslaved by walking along the self-guided Richmond Slave Trail, which includes 17 markers chronicling the history of enslavement in the area.