Arts & Culture

Juneteenth Around the South

A round-up of Jubilee celebrations taking place across the region—and online

photo: Brenda Paige Ward

Riders during a parade in Birmingham, Alabama, one of a series of events honoring Juneteenth this Friday.

I like to call it Jubilee Day. Some call it Juneteenth or Freedom Day. June 19 memorializes the news—some two-and-a-half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation—that enslaved people in the state of Texas were now free by edict of the 13th amendment, passed by Congress in January 1865 and ratified that year in December. Texas being farther removed from the other Southern states, news traveled slowly, and rebel holdouts abounded. So it was on June 19, 1865 that Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army issued General Orders No. 3 to the people of Texas, which called for an “absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.”

There are other dates, from the surrender at Appomattox to the abolition of slavery in the U.S. capitol, that are no less suited to celebrate the liberation of enslaved Americans. But Juneteenth stuck, and each year, two weeks before the 4th of July, we remember the time four score and seven years after America’s first independence that she finally extended her ideals to enslaved citizens. 

While many 2020 Juneteenth celebrations have been cancelled or postponed following COVID-19 restrictions, others have found ways to work around the restraints of the pandemic. Here are a number of events—virtual and otherwise—taking place around the South.

Virtual Events

Juneteenth Virtual Music Festival

Billed as the world’s first virtual global freedom festival, the free online event on Thursday, June 18, will be headlined by a house-party-themed set from DJ Jazzy Jeff at 9 p.m. Eastern. All day the livestream will showcase performers such as the Reminders as well as honoring community members for achievements in business, education, arts, and service, including Dr. Arthur C. Jones, a clinical psychologist, scholar, and avocational singer, for his award-winning work, The Spirituals Project.

Orange County African-American Historical Society and Montpelier Juneteenth

Explore the African-American heritage of Montpelier, President James Madison’s Virginia home, and surrounding Orange County in this month-long virtual exhibit. On June 20, the series will feature a walking tour of sites of Emancipation at Montpelier with Dr. Matthew Reeves, Montpelier’s Director of Archaeology and Landscape Restoration. You can also join a Zoom book discussion the evening of June 18 with Dr. J. Drew Lanham (The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature) and on June 25 with Dr. Bettye Kearse (The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President’s Black Family).

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The Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington

Event planners are organizing what they call “the largest online gathering of poor and dispossessed people, and people of conscience, in this nation’s history.” Speakers during the two-and-a-half-hour program will include service workers, mothers who have lost children due to lack of healthcare, coal miners, an Apache elder, and lots more, introduced by actors and activists including Erika Alexander, Danny Glover, and Al Gore. It will be broadcast on Saturday, June 20, at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern, and again on Sunday at 6 p.m, and will be interpreted into Spanish and ASL and open captioned in English.

Live Events

Week-long Juneteenth
Birmingham, Alabama

A week of events organized by the National Juneteenth Observation Foundation of Alabama and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute culminates in a candlelight vigil at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Sunday evening at the 16th Street and 6th Avenue parking lot. Events on Friday include a celebration at Patton Park and a 100 Woman March at Legion Field.

Juneteenth Freedom Festival
Lake Charles, Louisiana

A family drive-in movie night on Friday featuring Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, and a fireworks display in downtown Lake Charles cap off the 2020 installment of this annual Louisiana celebration.

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Juneteenth Census Parade
Durham, North Carolina

Decorated cars and bikes will parade through downtown Durham on Saturday morning to raise awareness of the 2020 census in a COVID-19 friendly format. Afterward, head to a Juneteenth community cookout at Chris & Ray’s Tasty Cuisine in Raleigh. Face masks required.

Million Moe March
Washington, D.C.

Friday will bring a new Million Moe March installment from the creators of the Moechella Rallies in D.C., which have given a platform to notable leaders and advocates since 2017. Marchers will begin at 4 p.m. at Black Lives Matter Plaza and end at 14th St. and U St. NW. Organizers ask participants to wear masks.

photo: Courtesy of GoGoDC

Booker T. Washington National Monument Juneteenth Celebration
Hardy, Virginia

A day of events on Saturday will include living history tours that bring to life Booker T. Washington’s emancipation, gospel singing, food vendors, and children’s activities.

The Creamery Grand Opening
Miami, Florida

Chef Marcus Samuelsson will open the Creamery, his ice cream shop on the site of his forthcoming Red Rooster Overtown restaurant, on June 19. Sample ice-cream flavors like Marcus’ Cornbread and Ode to Havana along with a selection of dishes from the new restaurant. The Creamery will be open for takeout and delivery or outdoor dining in the backyard. And head back on June 20 from noon to 5 p.m. for a DJ-led Juneteenth celebration with wine and snacks, sponsored by the Black-owned rosé brand La Fête du Rosé.