Celebrating Juneteenth, the Day Slavery Ended

“I think what is so often lost is the story of the ancestors and elders that kept this history going by acknowledging the day even when the larger society wouldn’t acknowledge it. Juneteenth didn’t become important because it became a national holiday, and it didn’t become important in 2020 after the unfortunate murder of George Floyd. It has always been important to the former enslaved and their descendants.”

At various times on Juneteenth weekend, you can stand in the spot where General Granger read his proclamation on a guided Juneteenth Freedom Trail Tour, led by Juneteenth and Beyond Black History Guided Tours ($25), and continue on a walk that highlights other stops integral to Black history in the city. The Nia Cultural Center, headquarters of the Juneteenth Legacy Project, will host a gospel-centered Emancipation Celebration on Friday at the Grand 1894 Opera House with live music to honor social justice pioneers (from $20).

Saturday presents plenty of celebration options. There’s the Galveston Juneteenth Festival at Menard Park, a family-friendly event with live music, food, a youth basketball tournament and Black artist art walk, and the Juneteenth Parade & Picnic at Wright Cuney Park. On Monday at 10 a.m. is the 44th annual Emancipation Proclamation reading at Ashton Villa, which honors the legacy of State Representative Al Edwards, the principal proponent of the Juneteenth Texas state holiday. At 6 p.m. that day, one of the most poignant events is the Emancipation March, a re-enactment of the first celebration of emancipation that took place in Galveston on Jan. 1, 1866. Hundreds of people will take part in the procession, welcoming others to join them along the way, and it’s led by city elders who honor the legacy of the United States Colored Troops who enforced the freedom proclamation.

A vacation getaway for African American families since the early 20th century, particularly the town of Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard has only recently started celebrating Juneteenth. What began in 2021 as an informal gathering on the front porch of the Narragansett House, owned by Kahina Van Dyke of Inkwell Haven Hospitality, is now the Juneteenth Jubilee Cultural Festival, featuring musical performances, cultural discussions and a special Sunday Service at Union Chapel. Saturday will start with the Juneteenth flag-raising ceremony at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs, followed by musical performances and a conversation with the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. All events are free.

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