Every year on June 19, a celebration known as Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free — officially marking the end of slavery in the United States.
Union soldiers arrived in Galveston with the news two months after the Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union armies, at Appomattox, Virginia — and an incredible two and half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Today, the federal holiday Juneteenth (a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth”) is celebrated with events like parades, barbecues, musical performances, beauty pageants and an abundance of red-colored food and drink. Here’s a roundup of cities throughout the country that celebrate Juneteenth and acknowledge the history — and contributions — of African Americans year-round.
As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.
Whether it’s the Sweet Auburn neighborhood or the legacy of the late Martin Luther King Jr., Atlanta is a pivotal city for understanding the Civil Rights Movement. Atlanta is also an important Southern city where it’s possible to tangibly witness the impact of Black people on the culture, traditions and history of a place.
Stroll by the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park’s reflection pool marking the crypt where Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King found their final place of rest, walk a few minutes to stop outside Dr. King’s childhood home, and then pay homage to countless other African Americans at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta’s Grant Park neighborhood.
Houston and Galveston, Texas
To talk about Juneteenth is to reference Texas.
Known as “Chocolate City” and home to renowned HBCU (Historically Black College and University) Howard University, Washington, D.C., has long celebrated African Americans and their history.
Whether it’s picking up a half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street, dining at soul food institution Oohh’s and Aahh’s, or paying reverence to fallen soldiers at the nearby African American Civil War Memorial, there’s plenty to do and see.
Juneteenth is an officially observed holiday in the district, and the National Museum of African American History & Culture holds programs and events to celebrate.
The earliest African Americans to settle and build their lives in Oakland in the 19th century were sailors, railroad porters, hotel workers and cooks. From then onward, African Americans built a thriving community and opened businesses to support themselves.
To commemorate Juneteenth, Black Mass Gathering features a drum circle, spoken word performances, vendors selling artisan goods and a panel discussion.
A city shaped by the Great Migration — the most significant mass exodus of African Americans from the South — Detroit “Motor City” continues to be shaped by the Black people who call it home.
To commemorate Juneteenth, learn more about the city’s Black history, stopping by the Joe Louis monument, bronze sculpture known as “The Fist,” as well as visiting the Gateway to Freedom International Memorial, found on the Hart Plaza riverfront, which pays homage to Detroit’s ties to the Underground Railroad.