How to Celebrate Juneteenth
Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day) occurs annually on June 19th and is the most popular celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States. It commemorates the day on June 19, 1865 (two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation) when Union General Gordon Granger informed enslaved Texans that they had been freed. You can learn more about the history of Juneteenth in this article by historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Juneteenth’s position in the middle of Pride Month should serve as a reminder of the interconnectedness of our struggle for liberation. We would not have Pride as we know it today if it were not for the histories of Black and Brown revolutionary activism, and we must commit to anti-racism in all of our celebrations.
This guide includes a list of ways you can celebrate Juneteenth in your community, as well as a list of resources where you can learn more about Juneteenth and the continued legacy of white supremacy.
WAYS TO CELEBRATE JUNETEENTH
Attend local Juneteenth events
Many cities and community organizations host Juneteenth events like festivals, parades, protests, concerts, and more! You can do a quick Google search for [your city] + Juneteenth to see if there are any events near you. These celebrations often rely on the support of volunteers, so they can also be a great opportunity for non-Black allies to contribute their time and resources.
Visit a Black museum or cultural site
Museums are a great, interactive way to learn about history and culture, and many also offer lectures, performances, and other live programming. The Association of African American Museums has a national directory of African American Museums and affiliate institutions, but it is not exhaustive, so you may also want to do a Google search to find a museum near you. Even if you’re not able to visit in person, the National Museum of African-American History in Washington, DC has lots of amazing online resources, including videos and artifacts about Juneteenth.
Share a commitment to dismantling white supremacy
It’s important for allies to reflect on the ways they uphold white supremacy and how they plan to dismantle it. Spend some time thinking about concrete ways you can use your power and privilege to uplift Black and Brown people and combat white supremacy each and every day. You can also share your list of commitments on social media as a way to encourage others to commit to anti-racism as well.
Support Black organizations and individuals in your community
For non-Black allies, Juneteenth is a great opportunity to show solidarity by volunteering your time and/or resources to support Black community members. Consider volunteering at a Juneteenth event, giving money directly to Black community members, or working with local Black-led organizations.
LEARN MORE ABOUT JUNETEENTH AND THE LEGACY OF SLAVERY
On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed
Weaving together American history, dramatic family chronicle, and searing episodes of memoir, Annette Gordon- Reed’s On Juneteenth provides a historian’s view of the country’s long road to Juneteenth, recounting both its origins in Texas and the enormous hardships that African-Americans have endured in the century since, from Reconstruction through Jim Crow and beyond.
Juneteenth: A Children’s Story by Opal Lee
An engaging way to introduce the history of slavery and freedom to children in words they can understand. Ms. Opal highlights the celebration of Juneteenth and the importance of commemorating this milestone all across America.
Juneteenth for Maizie by Floyd Cooper
Mazie is ready to celebrate liberty. She is ready to celebrate freedom. She is ready to celebrate a great day in American history. The day her ancestors were no longer slaves. Mazie remembers the struggles and the triumph, as she gets ready to celebrate Juneteenth.
Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison
In Juneteenth, Ralph Ellison evokes the rhythms of jazz and gospel and ordinary speech to tell a powerful tale of a prodigal son in the twentieth century. With the aid of Ellison’s widow, Fanny, his literary executor, John Callahan, has edited this magnificent novel at the center of Ralph Ellison’s forty-year work in progress — its author’s abiding testament to the country he so loved and to its many unfinished tasks.
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
Me and White Supremacy leads readers through a journey of understanding their white privilege and participation in white supremacy, so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on Black, Indigenous and People of Color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status — denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.
Stony the Road by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
In this new book, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., one of our leading chroniclers of the African-American experience, seeks to answer that question in a history that moves from the Reconstruction Era to the “nadir” of the African-American experience under Jim Crow, through to World War I and the Harlem Renaissance.
For more book recommendations, check out the Juneteenth Reading List from Penguin Random House.
Shows and Movies
Juneteenth Jamboree illuminates the significance of the Juneteenth holiday and shares stories about black culture and history. You can view this year’s episodes and an archive of past years for free through the PBS website.
Miss Juneteenth is a soulful journey of a determined woman who takes on the burden of representing history, and generations of black women, while standing tall despite her own shortcomings as she marches, step by step, toward self-realization.
The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross
Noted scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. recounts the full trajectory of African-American history in this six-part series. The series explores the evolution of the African-American people, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed — forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds.
When the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1865, former slaves expected freedom for the rest of their lives, as it ruled slavery of any kind unlawful. However, Director Ava Duvernay explores a loophole, which deems a form of slavery acceptable in the legal form of criminal punishment. Duvernay’s documentary “13th” takes a well-informed look at this loophole and administers a researched look at the American incarceration system and how it contributes to systemic racism today.