These 10 Cities Have Some of the Best Juneteenth Celebrations
Black communities have been gathering to celebrate this freedom holiday for decades.
Before 2020, not many people knew about Juneteenth. Despite the deep roots of Black culture in America, this celebration of Black freedom went ignored for decades too long. From Charleston to Tulsa, since being brought to this country in chains, Black folks have always found solace in coming together. Whether it’s weekly fish fries or annual family reunions at the park, many Black families regularly gather to celebrate the right to be free. Each Juneenteenth Black people in cities across the country join in dancing, playing, eating, and honor their ancestors–regardless of how far away freedom may still seem. These 10 cities have some of the best Juneteenth celebrations.
In the 1920s, many Black folks called Richmond’s downtown district, Jackson Ward, home. Music was at the core of this thriving epicenter of Black culture. Legendary jazz musicians and performers like Ella Fitzgerald and Richmond’s own, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, regularly sold-out shows at the city’s Hippodrome Theater, and Black businesses were flourishing, too. But in the 1950s, city officials built a highway right through the heart of Jackson Ward.
Despite its history, the Black RVA community continues to be a hub for Black culture today, making it the perfect place to celebrate Juneteenth. Check out “A Freedom of Celebration” on June 27th for performances, healing cyphers, and ancestral homage.
Courtesy of Elegba Folklore Society
We can’t talk about Juneteenth without talking about the Texan roots of the holiday. When enslaved folks in Galveston, Texas, finally got word about their freedom in 1865 (though they weren’t freed overnight) the jubilee began one year later. They danced, sang, barbequed, and prayed as Black communities often still do.
By 1872, Houston’s Black community raised $1,000 and purchased ten acres of land to host the annual celebration. A recently-renovated Emancipation Park is still one the best places to be Black and (virtually) carefree this Juneteenth. To experience the energy of Juneteenth in person, head to Gavelston’s Juneteenth parade and picnic.
ניקולס [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr
New York City
In New York City, The Juneteenth NY organization has been empowering, educating, and entertaining the community every year since 2009. There’s always a full line-up at this liberation celebration, including live performances, a parade, Black-owned vendors, and education and wellness activations. To help shift the narrative on various challenges within the Black community, NYC’s Juneteenth event always honors a theme–this year’s theme is “Rebirthing the Roots of Entrepreneurial Excellence.”
Courtesy of Umoja Events
Atlanta , Georgia
Long considered a mecca of Black culture, Atlanta’s Juneteenth parade and festival is a beautiful celebration of Black history. The southern city has always been an essential part of Black American liberation–from emancipation to the Civil Rights Movement. Bringing a unique twist to the Juneteenth jubilee, Atlanta’s celebration features a double dutch competition, an artists’ market, and a 5k Freedom Run.
Courtesy of Juneteenth Atlanta
Not many people know that a formerly enslaved Black man named Robert Church saved Memphis, making Beale Street the entertainment hub it remains today. Beale Street was established in 1841. But by the 1870s, the city had been severely affected by the Civil War and yellow fever.
As Memphis’ population was dwindling, the city faced losing its charter, but Robert Church saw an opportunity for his people to thrive. So he acquired land, opened a park, and brought a slew of Black businesses to Beale Street. Black restaurants, clubs, and shops thrived while Ida. B Wells headquartered her famous anti-lynching newspaper there, too. Memphis eventually became a critical place in the struggle for Black liberation during the Civil Rights Movement. Memphis is a sacred ground of Black freedom and one of the best places to celebrate Juneteenth this year.