Juneteenth, known as Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day and Liberation Day, commemorates the day in 1865 when the federal army reached Texas to ensure that enslaved people in the state were freed. Union General Gordon Granger brought news of the end of the war and the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been signed more than two years earlier. He read a statement that said all enslaved people were free on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas.
Just as the news of emancipation took years to reach formerly enslaved people, so has it taken many years for the day to be recognized as an important American holiday. But last year, President Biden made Juneteenth a day of holiday and enacted it into law: people can wish each other “happy Juneteenth.” This year (2022) June 19th falls on a Sunday, making for a celebratory summer weekend.
Many celebrations take place among families in backyards, where food is an integral element. Some cities hold larger events, including parades and festivals. Galveston has remained a busy site for Juneteenth events: after dedicating a 5,000-square-foot mural last year, in 2022 Galveston will celebrate the holiday with a banquet, poetry festival, parade and a picnic. Organizers in Atlanta will hold a parade and music festival at Centennial Olympic Park, and similar events are scheduled in Baltimore, Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Tulsa, Okla.
In northeast, we might want to visit Provincetown, Massachusetts, for Juneteenth 2022 – A Community Celebration and Cookout at 236 Commercial St. (Sunday @ 2 p.m.) In western Massachusetts, visit the Springfield Juneteenth Jubilee Underground Railroad Tour at The Pan African Historical Museum of Springfield (Saturday @ 3, 4 and 5 p.m.)
Chicago is holding over fifty barbecues, parades and other celebrations, including a Black Entrepreneurs Experience at Wrigley Field. In Denver, the Juneteenth Music Festival has become an annual attraction. The Atlantic Street Center’s Juneteenth celebration, hosted every year since its inception in 2001, is a community staple in south Seattle.
South Carolina has a variety of thriving African American populations and there’s no better time to experience them than during their Juneteenth festivals in well-known cities like Charleston to smaller hidden gem communities.
The Lowcountry Juneteenth Week (June 13-19) across various locations will help empower, celebrate and educate visitors through Gullah History, arts and culture.
In Columbia, attend the Juneteenth Freedom Festival, now in its sixth year. The festival saw more than 20,000 visitors last year and featured more than 200 Black & minority-owned business vendors.
Hosted by The Center for African American History, Art and Culture (CAAHAC), Aiken’s Juneteenth Celebration includes cultural demonstrations, artists, musical performances, local vendors, and small group tour of the center’s interactive galleries that trace African American history all the way back to the Door of No Return.
Whether you go to a parade or to your sister’s back yard, food is an important element of Juneteenth, including summer cookout dishes like barbecue, baked beans, deviled eggs, potato salad, cakes and pies. Red-hued foods are classic, so don’t forget the strawberry soda, watermelon and, perhaps most importantly, red velvet cake.