Home Travel 12 Top Destinations to Visit to Celebrate Juneteenth

12 Top Destinations to Visit to Celebrate Juneteenth

by Atlanta Business Journal

Emancipation Day. Freedom Day. Jubilee Day. Juneteenth is known by many names. On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger delivered General Order No. 3 to the enslaved people and residents of Galveston, Texas, ending slavery in the state.

This order came more than two years after former President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 ending slavery in the confederate states. The Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery throughout the U.S., but in December 1865, the ratification of the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the country.

June 19 is celebrated because it was the first time Blacks were thought of as free people.

Celebrations for Juneteenth began in 1866. Some people held parties, parades, prayer gatherings or cookouts. Juneteenth first became a state holiday in Texas in 1980. Over time, other states and Washington, D.C., slowly began to recognize the date as a holiday.

The interest for Juneteenth to become a national holiday heightened followed the nationwide popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement. After a quick debate in the U.S. House of Representatives and then the U.S. Senate, Juneteenth became the newest federal holiday on June 17, 2021. It’s the first federal holiday to be established since 1983, when Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was formally declared a holiday.

Whether it’s a music festival, a parade, a cookout or a march, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Juneteenth across the country. U.S. News compiled a list of the top destinations to celebrate Juneteenth nationwide.

(Note: Some of the following activities, attractions and locations may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. New policies may be in place, including capacity restrictions, reservation requirements or mask mandates. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of State and local tourism boards before traveling.)

Fort Worth, Texas

(Courtesy of Austin James)

The campaign to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday began in Fort Worth, Texas, thanks to activist Opal Lee. As a child, Lee witnessed a group of 500 white supremacists vandalize and burn her family’s home to the ground. This pivotal moment led her to a life of teaching and activism.

In 2016, at age 89, she began a walking campaign starting in her hometown of Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., in hopes of getting Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday.

Lee walked 2.5 miles a day, symbolizing the years it took for Black Texans to be free from slavery after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. While her initial effort failed, she relaunched the campaign in 2019, but had to suspend her efforts once COVID-19 began to spread.

She was present when President Joe Biden signed legislation on June 17, 2021, making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

As Lee’s hometown, Fort Worth holds several events during the month of June.

Travelers can participate in the Opal’s Walk for Freedom to commemorate her historic walk or visit the Amon Carter Museum of American Art to see its new exhibit “Black Every Day.” The exhibition, which features images from famous photographers like Gordon Parks and James Van Der Zee, explores everyday Black life through photos from the past century.

Meanwhile, the annual Miss Juneteenth Scholarship Pageant provides a platform for young Black women to embrace their self-esteem and self-expression.

The city also hosts the I AM JUNETEENTH Festival, where attendees can enjoy food, music and family-friendly activities. For a quintessential Texas experience, consider stopping by the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, which is named after the Black cowboy pioneer.

The National Juneteenth Museum, which will display exhibits about the holiday and hold lectures and seminars, is slated to open in the area soon as well.

Check out JuneteenthFTW’s website for more information.

Washington, D.C.

(Courtesy of Alan Karchmer)

On June 19, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People Campaign held a Solidarity Day rally on the National Mall. And starting in 2005, the city began celebrating its own Emancipation Day in recognition of April 16, 1862 – the day slavery was abolished in the district.

This year’s Juneteenth celebrations are buzzing with activity.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is hosting several events, including the live panel discussion, “One Year Later: Juneteenth for All Americans,” which spotlights the social and historical context of the holiday. The museum is also home to the “Make Good the Promises: Reconstruction and Its Legacies” exhibit, which explores the post-Civil War era for Blacks through artifacts and photography. Travelers should note free timed-entry passes are required.

Meanwhile, the National Archives will be displaying both the original Emancipation Proclamation and General Order No. 3 on Juneteenth weekend. The museum will also host a family day with kid-friendly activities and arts and crafts. Visitors should note that although it’s not required, timed-ticket entry is available.

And along Independence Avenue, the three-day-long Something in the Water music festival makes its debut in the nation’s capital. Enjoy performances from artists like Pharrell & Friends, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Baby, Usher, T.I., Tyler, the Creator, Chloe x Halle and more in the heart of Washington, D.C. Purchase passes to the event online at the Something in the Water website.

Want to stay active? Sign up for the Third Annual Juneteenth Half Marathon or 10K. The race takes place along the Civil War Defenses of Washington trail. For more family-centric activities, stop by the Juneteenth 2022 Block Party Celebration in the Anacostia neighborhood. Attendees can enjoy food, music and shopping at local Black businesses.

See Destination DC’s website for more information.

Montgomery, Alabama

(Courtesy of Troy University)

Montgomery, Alabama, is considered the birthplace of the civil rights movement. It was here in December 1955 that the Montgomery Bus Boycott took place after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. It is also home to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum. The memorial sits on a 6-acre space and allows visitors to explore the history of racial injustice. Through exhibits and art, the museum takes visitors on a journey from enslavement to current issues of mass incarceration. The memorial and museum are located less than a mile apart. A free shuttle bus runs between both sites every 10 minutes.

The Freedom Rides Museum is also located in Montgomery. The museum was the site of an attack on Freedom Riders traveling through the south in 1961. The historical landmark explores the events leading to the 1961 attack through photography and first-person accounts. Visitors can express their feelings about the significance of the participants in the Freedom Rides through the “Share Your Story” exhibit.

Beyond these significant sites, there are also a variety of Juneteenth events in Montgomery.

Travelers can attend the Seventh Annual Juneteenth Celebration at the Rosa Parks Museum. The free event features food, live music and arts and crafts for kids, as well as complimentary tours of the museum.

There are also several events taking place at Montgomery’s Riverwalk Amphitheater, including the Juneteenth Praise Fest and the Juneteenth Festival. Along with food trucks, the festival will include performances by an aerialist and “American Idol” alum (and Montgomery native) Lady K.

For more information, visit the City of Montgomery’s official Juneteenth website.

Auburn, New York

(Courtesy of the New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center)

Located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Auburn was the last home to abolitionist Harriet Tubman. She settled in Auburn because the area was a hub for abolitionists and the city was one of many stops along New York’s Underground Railroad system.

This year’s Juneteenth festivities coincide with the bicentennial of Tubman’s birth, according to the National Park Service. (The exact birth date of Tubman is unknown, but historians estimate she was born between 1820 and 1822.)

The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park is hosting several events during the city’s four-day celebration. Tag along on the 2-mile, two-hour “Hike Through the History of Tubman” walking tour to visit historic sites, such as the Seward House Museum and Tubman’s gravesite in Fort Hill Cemetery. Travelers can also listen to a ranger talk about the significant role Auburn played in women’s and Black history or take a ranger-led tour of Tubman’s farm.

The park is also hosting a 45-minute “Ride Through History Trolley Tour.” The tour, which is led by a park service ranger and the Seward House Museum’s director of education, focuses on the importance of Juneteenth and features stories about Tubman and the Seward family.

The city will also host a daylong Juneteenth Freedom Day with food, vendors, concerts, activities and more. Watch the parade in downtown Auburn, or enjoy kid-friendly activities like face painting, caricatures and games, and live music performances at the Booker T. Washington Community Center.

Head to the Cayuga County Office of Tourism’s website for additional information.

Atlanta

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 19: A band participates in a parade to celebrate Juneteenth on June 19, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. Juneteenth marks the end of slavery in the United States and the Juneteenth National Independence Day became the 12th legal federal holiday signed in June 17th, 2021. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Atlanta is city that is rich in civil rights history. Some of its famous residents included Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King, as well as former U.S. Rep. John Lewis. The Georgia capital is home to many civil rights historic landmarks, such as Ebenezer Baptist Church and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

With such an important history, it should come as no surprise that Emancipation Day activities in Atlanta are plentiful.

Visitors can watch the 10th Annual Juneteenth Atlanta Parade as it marches down Decatur Street and onward to Marietta Street, ending near Centennial Olympic Park. Afterward, celebrate with live music and entertainment, games and food at the Juneteenth music festival.

The Atlanta History Center is also saluting the holiday with its Juneteenth 2022: Jubilee on the Lawn. The celebration will focus on the history of Juneteenth, as well as Black innovation and life in Atlanta since emancipation. Travelers should note that while the event is free, registration is recommended.

Check out Discover Atlanta’s website for more information.

Baltimore

Located about 40 miles north of Washington, D.C., Baltimore is a vibrant port city filled with delicious seafood, culture and Black history. While slavery did not end in Maryland until 1864, Baltimore was home to the largest free Black community during the 1860s.

Thanks to its large Black population, the city became a hot spot for jazz music (many notable jazz musicians, including Billie Holiday, Eubie Blake and Chick Webb, lived or were born in Baltimore). Along Pennsylvania Avenue, the Royal Theater was once a popular venue that became part of the infamous Chitlin’ Circuit, or spaces that catered to Black audiences and performers.

Considering its ties to so many legendary musicians, it’s no surprise that many of the Juneteenth events happening around town are music-centric.

The 45th Annual AFRAM Festival returns to its two-day, in-person event. During the Juneteenth weekend, enjoy live music from artists like Ne-Yo and The O’Jays, fashion and food at Druid Hill Park.

Meanwhile, the Juneteenth Kwanzaa Celebration at the Eubie Blake Cultural Center will honor both Juneteenth and the Kwanzaa principle of Ujima, which means collective work and responsibility. Here, visitors can listen to poetry and storytelling, and see dance performances and art.

Head to Visit Baltimore’s website for more details on the various events.

Chicago

(Courtesy of Choose Chicago)

The Windy City was founded by Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a Black settler. Chicago was home to a stable African American population during the Reconstruction period, but it wasn’t until the Great Migration that the city’s Black population exploded. About 500,000 people migrated to the city between 1916 and 1970.

Many famous Black notables, such as Mae Jemison, Ida B. Wells and John H. Johnson, have called Chicago home, and there are plenty of celebrations planned for Juneteenth.

The DuSable Museum of African American History – the oldest independent African American museum in the country – is hosting a Juneteenth BBQ & Block Party featuring food, live music and a quilting exhibition and workshop. Along with its Juneteenth events, the museum is also home to several notable exhibits, including “Freedom: Origin and Journey,” which focuses on key periods of African American history. Through artifacts and storytelling, visitors can learn about the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Great Migration, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement and the Black Power movement. This exhibit focuses on the setbacks, the achievements and the future of Black history.

Additional events include the 1865 Fest in Garfield Park, which aims to honor Black military members and fathers through educational workshops, family activities and live music, and the Congo Square Theatre’s 2022 Festival on the Square. This year’s theme, “Homecoming,” explores healing and joy within the Black community and will feature live music and theatrical readings.

For more info, visit Choose Chicago’s website.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

(Courtesy of Tulsa Juneteenth)

On May 31 and into June 1, 1921, the Tulsa district of Greenwood, nicknamed “Black Wall Street” for its prosperous Black community, was burned to the ground by a mob of white rioters. Hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses, churches, schools and stores were destroyed, and an estimated 300 people were killed. It was the setting for one of the worst race massacres in U.S. history.

In recent years, the city has invested in projects, such as the Greenwood Rising museum, to help bring attention to this massacre and showcase the heartbreak and resilience of the Greenwood community.

This year’s three-day Juneteenth festival event, which takes place from June 16 to 18, includes a block party, art exhibits, live music, workshops and more.

Check out Tulsa Juneteenth Festival’s website for more information.

St. Augustine, Florida

(Courtesy of St. Johns Cultural Council)

Known for its Spanish architecture and pristine beaches, St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest city in the U.S. It’s also the location of the first free Black settlement, Fort Mose Historic State Park, and an African American history museum, the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center.

Housed in the Excelsior School Building, which served as the first public Black high school in the area, the museum is holding a dedication ceremony in honor of the city’s civil rights activists and the emancipation of slaves across the country. A formal proclamation will be declared by the city and the museum plans to unveil its newest artifact, the F.W. Woolworth counter. On July 18, 1963, a group of 16 African American youths were arrested for attempting to order burgers at the “white-only” lunch counter at Woolworth’s. The judge, Charles Mathis, told the parents he would release the young adults if they promised to stay away from other demonstrations. Of those arrested, only four would not agree to the plea deal. Later known as “The St. Augustine Four,” they were put in jail and then reform school. They were released from detainment in January 1964 after state and national officials intervened.

In addition to the events at the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center, the St. Augustine Music Festival will be having a two-day concert event performing spiritual and classical music celebrating the civil rights movement. Travelers should note admission is available on a first-come, first-served basis for the June 18 performance at the New Saint James Missionary Baptist Church and free reservations are available online for the June 19 concert at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine.

Head to Visit St. Augustine-Ponte Vedra’s website or the St. Johns Cultural Council website for additional information.

Los Angeles

(Courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association)

Los Angeles is home to a thriving and diverse metropolitan area. When the city was founded in 1781 by 44 settlers, about half were of African or mixed-race ancestry. Black history has long been celebrated in the City of Angels, and this year’s Juneteenth weekend includes a packed roster of events.

Start your Juneteenth celebrations early with a hike at the Old Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park. As you trudge up Mount Hollywood, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views, as well as music and refreshments at the hike’s conclusion.

If you don’t want to break a sweat, consider attending the Juneteenth Art x Culture Festival hosted by the Los Angeles Black History Month Festival. Along with live music, the event will feature a panel discussion and workshops with notable African American authors.

Meanwhile, the Hollywood Bowl is hosting an all-star cast of musical performances. JUNETEENTH: A Global Celebration of Freedom will feature jazz, gospel, hip-hop, soul and R&B artists like Khalid, The Roots and Billy Porter. This event will also mark the first time an all-Black symphony orchestra will perform onstage at the Hollywood Bowl. Purchase tickets in advance on the Hollywood Bowl website.

For additional details on various events and activities, visit the Discover Los Angeles website.

Philadelphia

Bromani Crumpton Sr (right), of Newcastle, DE, carries a large flag as he participates Freedom Day march in celebration of Juneteenth, in West Philadelphia, PA, USA on June 19, 2021. The Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day commemorates the announcement of abolition of slavery on June 19, 1865 and this year become a federal holiday after President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via AP)

(Associated Press)

Philadelphia is famously the home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were drafted and signed, but the city also played an important role in Black history. The City of Brotherly Love was once a stop on the Underground Railroad, and it’s where one of the first African American churches – the African Methodist Episcopal Church – was established.

In honor of Juneteenth, popular landmarks like the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and the Philadelphia Museum of Art will be lit up in red, black and green – the colors of the Pan-African flag.

Visitors can also attend the Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade, where they’ll see floats, bands and dance troupes make their way down to Malcolm X Park, where the Juneteenth Festival is being held. Festivalgoers can shop at local Black businesses, sample some of Philly’s best food and explore art exhibits.

Plus, the 16-day Wawa Welcome America festival will kick off its countdown to Independence Day with a variety of Juneteenth celebrations. Enjoy music, food and line dancing at the Juneteenth Block Party at the African American Museum. The museum will also offer free admission with online registration.

Check out Visit Philadelphia’s website for more details.

Oakland, California

Sitting across the bay from San Francisco, Oakland, California, was once the home of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Formed in 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, the Black Panthers made history empowering the African American population to become more self-sufficient. While the organization has been disbanded for almost 40 years, travelers can still visit landmarks, such as murals and museums, around the city.

In celebration of Juneteenth, the city is set to host several events honoring the challenges and successes of the Black community. Afrocentric Oakland will kick off its Juneteenth Weekend with the 10th annual PanAfrican Wellness Fest, which will feature meditation, yoga, food and art installations at Lake Merritt Amphitheater. Return the following day for the 10th annual Fam Bam X – Juneteenth Edition for family-friendly activities, Pan-African vendors and live music. Travelers should note tickets are required for both events and there is a fee.

Check out Visit Oakland’s website for more information.

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