304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
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 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 and declared the end of 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 Black Americans were thought of as free people in this country.
Celebrations for Juneteenth began in 1866. Some people held parties, parades, prayer gatherings or cookouts. In 1980, Juneteenth first became a state holiday in Texas, and over time, other states and Washington, D.C., slowly began to recognize the date as a holiday too.
The interest in Juneteenth becoming a national holiday gained momentum following the nationwide popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement. After a quick debate in Congress, Juneteenth was designated 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 honor Juneteenth across the country. U.S. News compiled a list of the top destinations to celebrate Juneteenth in 2023.
(Courtesy of Austin James)
The campaign to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday began in Fort Worth 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 the legislation in 2021 making Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Lee’s hometown, Fort Worth, holds several events during the month of June. Travelers can participate in Opal’s Walk for Freedom for a fee to commemorate her historic walk on June 19. Participants and spectators can admire floats and vehicles decorated in their Juneteenth best as they make their way down the 2.5-mile route.
Visit the Amon Carter Museum of American Art to see its new exhibit called “Emancipation: The Unfinished Project of Liberation.” The exhibition features artwork depicting freedom for Black Americans and the legacy of the Civil War in 2023. The exhibition will be on display until July 9.
Meanwhile, the annual Miss Juneteenth Scholarship Pageant on June 3 provides a platform for young Black women to boost their self-esteem and self-expression. Looking for more family-friendly events? The Your Voice Unleashed Concert on June 10 will feature performances by an array of teenagers from all different backgrounds.
Although the National Juneteenth Museum isn’t slated to open until June 2025, the institution will host its inaugural Uniting Voices Speaker Series event on June 15 with the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson.
Think you’re a grill master? Try your hand at the Freedom First BBQ Cookoff on June 30 or sample various types of Afro culture cuisine at the Taste of Juneteenth food festival on July 1.
(Courtesy of Alan Karchmer)
Washington, D.C., has its own history with Juneteenth. On June 19, 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign held a Solidarity Day rally on the National Mall. 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 in Washington are buzzing with activity.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is hosting several events, including a Juneteenth Community Day, which will feature indoor and outdoor activities for families on June 17. Also set for that same day is a 30-minute performance of “History Alive!: USCT: Juneteenth: What It Means, and Why We Celebrate.” The program will present stories of Black people in the military and more about General Order No. 3. Visitors can also attend “A Seat at the Table: Heritage Rooted in the Earth” to learn more about scientist George Washington Carver and how Black farmers and fishers kept property and businesses after the Emancipation order. Travelers should note free timed-entry passes are required to visit the museum.
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 arts, crafts and activities on June 17. The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will open its “One Life: Frederick Douglass” exhibit on June 16, while the Anacostia Community Museum will host its Juneteenth Freedom Celebration on June 19.
Want to stay active? Check out the fourth annual Juneteenth Half Marathon & 10K. The races take place along the Civil War Defenses of Washington trail, starting and finishing at Fort Stanton Park. For more family-centric activities, stop by the Celebrate Juneteenth festival on the Brookland Arts Walk on June 18. Attendees can enjoy food, music and shopping at local Black businesses.
(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.
Several events are taking place in Auburn for Juneteenth.
The Seward House Museum will be hosting an evening with activist and author Angela Davis on June 15. The event will include a Q&A with the acclaimed historical figure. Fort Hill Cemetery, where Tubman is buried, will have a talk with historian Judith Wellman on June 19 about sites around Auburn and Cayuga County that are associated with the Underground Railroad and the abolitionists who helped. Following the talk will be a driving tour of the sites and a free cemetery walk to see Tubman’s tombstone and more.
The city will also host a daylong Juneteenth Celebration on June 17 with food, vendors, concerts, activities and more. Watch the parade in downtown Auburn, or enjoy kid-friendly activities like face painting, a slime station and games. Live music performances will be held at the Booker T. Washington Community Center.
The Willard Memorial Chapel will be hosting a Juneteenth celebration on June 18. A free organ concert will feature music by Black men and women during the civil rights era as well as food, kid-friendly activities and free tours of the chapel.
(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. The city 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, while the museum takes visitors on a journey from enslavement to current issues of mass incarceration through exhibits and art. 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 – at the site of an attack on Freedom Riders traveling through the south in 1961 – is also located in Montgomery. 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 eighth annual Juneteenth celebration at the Rosa Parks Museum. The free event features food, live music, arts and crafts for kids, and complimentary tours of the museum.
The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts will be hosting a Juneteenth event on June 17. While at the museum, visit “The Bias Inside Us” traveling exhibit, open until July 2, 2023. At Montgomery’s Riverwalk Amphitheater, the city’s 2023 Juneteenth Celebration is set to take place on June 17. Revelers can enjoy live entertainment, educational presentations, food and art exhibits.
With so much important history, it should come as no surprise that Emancipation Day activities in Atlanta are plentiful.
Visitors can watch the annual Juneteenth Atlanta Parade as it marches down Marietta Street, past Centennial Olympic Park. Afterward, celebrate with live music and entertainment, games and food at the Juneteenth Music Festival. Juneteenth Atlanta, which hosts the parade and festival, will also have the 5K Freedom Run on June 18 and a Miss Juneteenth Georgia Pageant on June 10.
The Atlanta History Center is also saluting the holiday with its Juneteenth 2023 event set for June 18. The celebration will focus on Black genealogy and agricultural practices. The event will feature talks ranging from bird-watching to family preservation, as well as storytelling, crafts, wellness activities and food. Travelers should note that while the event is free, registration is recommended.
The historic Oakland Cemetery will host a Juneteenth Celebration on June 17. The cemetery is the resting home of historical figures such as Maynard Jackson, the first African American mayor of Atlanta, and Selena Sloan Butler, who founded the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers, which would later merge to become part of the National Parent Teacher Association. The event will feature free cemetery tours, family-friendly activities, food and a vendor market.
Want to keep the celebratory momentum going into the evening? Join the Atlanta NAACP chapter at its Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom. Enjoy performances by Keith Washington, Angela Winbush, and Joyce Irby & Klymaxx – plus food and vendors.
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 in a U.S. city 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: spaces that catered to Black audiences and performers.
Considering the city’s ties to so many legendary musicians, it’s no surprise that many of the Juneteenth events happening around town are music-centric.
The 46th annual AFRAM festival is a two-day event starting on June 17. During the Juneteenth weekend, enjoy live music from artists like The Isley Brothers and Ty Dolla $ign on top of fashion and food at Druid Hill Park.
You’ll find live jazz at the B&O Railroad Museum’s Jazz on the Rails concert series. The Juneteenth celebration will also pay homage to past, present and future railroad employees and to the industry. The Baltimore Museum of Art will offer free admission on June 18 so visitors can see the exhibit “The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century,” which captures the influence of hip-hop on art as the music genre celebrates 50 years.
Outside of the many Juneteenth music festivities, the Walters Art Museum will host a “Juneteenth: Honoring Food, Traditions, and Histories” talk on June 15. The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture will host a daylong Juneteenth celebration on June 19. Enjoy free admission to the museum, live performances, artwork and talks.
(Michael Kariktan/Courtesy of Visit Alexandria)
Located about 10 miles from Washington, D.C., Alexandria was once home to one of the largest slave-trading posts in the country, Franklin and Armfield. Despite the huge slave-trading firm located in the city, Alexandria had several free Black residents. The first free Black community called “The Bottoms” was located in the southwestern part of the city, and by 1810 a new neighborhood known as Hayti was created in the eastern portion of the city. The free Black population continued to grow in Alexandria until 1846, when the city retroceded from D.C. to rejoin the state of Virginia.
Alexandria has plenty for travelers to do during Juneteenth.
Take a tour of the city on the “Black History in Alexandria” Bus Tour hosted by the Manumission Tour Company. The two-hour guided tour takes visitors on a journey through the area to see historical sites such as the Freedom House Museum and the Alfred Street Baptist Church. The company also hosts several other tours around Alexandria focused on Black history as well.
The Carlyle House, named for businessman John Carlyle who helped found the city, will host its annual Juneteenth celebration collaborating with The Athenaeum, a local arts organization, on June 17. Attendees will be able to learn more about Juneteenth with hands-on activities and poetry readings.
The Washington Revels Jubilee Voices’ Juneteenth concert is slated for June 19 at Market Square. Hear songs exploring the triumphs and tribulations of the Black community. You can also visit the Alexandria Black History Museum, which reopened in March 2023 after a three-year hiatus. The exhibit “Preserving Their Names: The Black Lives Remembered Collection” has more than 300 images and artifacts. Or, stop by the Freedom House Museum, which pays homage to enslaved and free Black people who lived in or were trafficked through the city.
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 Black churches – the African Methodist Episcopal Church – was established in the U.S.
The Johnson House Historic Site, which was an Underground Railroad stop, will host its 17th annual Philadelphia Juneteenth Festival on June 17. Enjoy African drumming, historical reenactments, vendors, food and talks during this celebration.
On June 18, attend the Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade, which draws more than 25,000 spectators yearly. You’ll see floats, bands and dance troupes make their way down to Malcolm X Park, where the Philadelphia Juneteenth Festival will take place. Festivalgoers can shop at local Black businesses, sample some of Philly’s best food and explore art exhibits.
The Wawa Welcome America festival will kick off its countdown to Independence Day with a variety of Juneteenth celebrations. Experience a special live performance by DJ Spinderella with her tribute to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, then enjoy food and family-friendly activities at the Juneteenth Block Party at the African American Museum in Philadelphia. The museum will also offer free admission with online registration. See exhibits such as the “Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America” or “Through His Eyes: Youth Activism in the Civil Rights Era in Philadelphia.”
While Opal Lee is considered the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” longtime Milwaukee resident Rev. Dr. Ronald Myers helped spearhead the modern movement of Juneteenth becoming a national holiday by founding the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage. The organization played a critical role in getting both the U.S. House and Senate to pass legislation recognizing Juneteenth as Juneteenth Independence Day in 1997. Myers’ activism helped encourage 43 states and Washington, D.C., to create their own Juneteenth celebrations, but it would be over two decades before Juneteenth became a federal holiday.
The city of Milwaukee’s Juneteenth event is considered one of the oldest celebrations in the country. The area began hosting its yearly event in 1971 after then-Northcott Neighborhood House staffer Margaret Rogers attended a Juneteenth event in Georgia and inspired a local celebration.
Now in its 52nd year, the event is still run by Northcott Neighborhood House. This year’s event theme is “I Am Juneteenth.” Become a part of Juneteenth history by attending one of the many events the city has going on during the holiday weekend. More than 40,000 spectators attended the event last year.
Dance the night away at the Freedom Ball on June 10. The ball pays homage to the past, present and future of Juneteenth in the city and includes live music, food and a silent auction. The annual Juneteenth Jubilee Parade and Festival will be held on June 19. Spectators can expect to see floats, marching bands and dance groups throughout the parade route. Afterward, enjoy food, dancing, sports activities and music at the street festival.
(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 Black 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 Black History Museum and Education Center – the oldest independent African American museum in the country – is hosting a Juneteenth Community BBQ on June 19 featuring food, live music, a petting zoo and a health pavilion. Along with its Juneteenth events, the museum is home to several notable exhibits, including “Diaspora Stories: Selections from the CCH Pounder Collection,” which features curated and personally selected African diasporic artwork from the Emmy-nominated actress’ private collection. Through artifacts and storytelling, visitors can learn about Harold Washington, the first Black mayor of Chicago at “The Harold Washington Story” exhibit.
The 1865 Coalition is hosting a three-day 1865 Fest in Garfield Park on Juneteenth weekend. The event will salute Black military members and fathers through educational workshops, family activities, live music and food. Known as the city’s “Black Metropolis,” the Bronzeville neighborhood will be hosting a Juneteenth celebration on June 17. The event’s theme is “Strengthening the roots,” and it will feature historians, artwork, dancing, food and vendors.
The Museum of Contemporary Art along with Refine Collective will hold the third annual Juneteenth Freedom Market on June 16. The market is slated to feature more than 50 Black-owned businesses, a performance from the 40+ Double Dutch Club, artwork, food and drinks.
(Courtesy of Tulsa Juneteenth)
In 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; 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 of Tulsa has invested in projects such as the Greenwood Rising museum to bring attention to this massacre and showcase the heartbreak and resilience of the Greenwood community. The 1921 Black Wall Street Memorial pays homage to the Black-owned businesses that were destroyed during the riot. Visitors to the city can also take a guided tour of the area through organizations such as the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, Tulsa Tours or The Real Black Wall Street Tour.
This year’s three-day Juneteenth festival event, which takes place from June 15 to 17, includes a block party, a 5K and fun run, art exhibits, live music, workshops and more.
Los Angeles is home to a thriving and diverse metropolitan area. When the city was founded in 1781, about half of its 44 settlers 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 in Los Angeles at Soulful of Noise’s Juneteenth Festival on June 17. Experience music performances, workshops, barber and beauty shops, and food. For yogis, take some time at the California African American Museum on June 18 for its Juneteenth Wellness Day. Enjoy a yoga and meditation session or a sound bath reflection session. (Note that the museum is currently closed for renovation and expected to reopen in August 2023.)
If you don’t want to break a sweat, consider attending the LA Juneteenth Festival hosted by Black on the Block on June 18. Patronize Black businesses while enjoying food, live music and networking. Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival on June 19 will have more than 300 Black-owned businesses, food and drinks, and artwork – not to mention multiple stages for live music, DJ sets, spoken word performances and more.
Meanwhile, The Greek Theatre is hosting an all-star cast of musical performances on June 19. “Juneteenth: A Global Celebration of Freedom” will feature, gospel, hip-hop, soul and R&B artists like Kirk Franklin, SWV and Miguel. Purchase tickets in advance on The Greek Theatre website.
Sitting across the bay from San Francisco, Oakland 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 by empowering Black Americans 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 annual Fam Bam Oakland Juneteenth Festival on June 17 with food, wellness workshops, family-friendly activities and vendors.
Want to learn more about Oakland? Take the Black Liberation Walking tour on June 17. You’ll learn more about local historical figures such as Delilah Beasley, who was the first African American woman to have a column for the Oakland Tribune; she also published a book about Black pioneers who were left out of the history books and historical Black spaces around the area.
Suzanne Mason is a travel editor with a love of warm vacation destinations and a passion to learn about whatever port of call she travels to. She has worked on the business side of travel and hospitality for almost a decade and now brings her expertise to U.S. News & World Report. For this article, she uses her own travel experience with several of these attractions and her research expertise.