It has been 155 years since slavery was finally ended in the United States. The annual celebration — which commemorates the date two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed that enslaved people in Texas were freed — is known as Juneteenth.
Black communities around the country celebrate the holiday with music, food, history lessons, inspirational speeches and many more activities. Still, this special day in Black history is not recognized as a national holiday. Despite advocates' efforts to mark the event as a national holiday, there has been little success.
A 93-year-old woman organized a petition last year hoping to see Juneteenth as a national holiday in 2020. But this year's celebration will still go on without the recognition.
Although the monumental day has not been recognized on a federal level, events will still continue across the country. Some of the events will be held online because of the coronavirus, and some celebrations will look to build on the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement protests. Here are some of the Juneteenth events happening around the country.
1. Opal Lee plans to continue walking
Opal Lee, the 93-year-old woman advocating for Juneteenth to be recognized as a national holiday, plans to continue with a familiar campaign during this year's celebration.
In her campaign, known as Opal's Walk, Lee brings together people for a march to raise awareness of the historic day. The 93-year-old started the event in 2016 by walking to Washington D.C.
"I just thought if a little, old lady in tennis shoes was out there walking, somebody would take notice," she told NPR in 2017.
Sen. Bernie Sanders has expressed his support for Lee.
"What Ms. Lee has been doing for much of her life is trying to get the federal government to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday, and I think she's right," Sanders said in a Twitter video last year.
Juneteenth should be a national holiday. pic.twitter.com/kMMMoMOuHp
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 19, 2019
Lee plans to walk with many more people this year. She invites the public to register and join the mission on Juneteenth.
2. OneRace Movement to lead a spiritual celebration
At Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Juneteenth will be celebrated with the March on Atlanta event. Led by an organization known as OneRace Movement, the celebration will feature a spiritual tone, including sermons and music.
"In light of the racially motivated violence of the past several weeks, and the corresponding protests across our nation, we are calling for a clear biblical response of righteousness and justice from the church of our City," the organizers stated.
The event will begin with a worship service and a statement on righteousness and justice. Attendees will then march to the Georgia State Capitol. They will return to the park in the afternoon and listen to music. The event will close with remarks from featured guests.
3. Organizers in Danville plan to carry the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement
In Danville, Illinois, a small group of organizers is planning local Juneteenth festivities. According to Commercial-News, Danville residents Chris Hightower, Mary Catherine Roberson and Breon Boyd are putting together this year's event in hopes of continuing the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement protests around the country.
“We want to use the momentum from Black Lives Matter to teach the community about Black culture and Black history,” Roberson told Commercial-News. “We want to build upon this and make this an annual event.”
The group said the event will include activities for people of all ages and races.
“This is not an event for just Black people,” Hightower said. “It’s for everyone to learn about Black culture and Black history.”
4. African American Heritage Society makes adjustments to its celebration
In Franklin, Tennessee, the community is making adjustments to this year's celebration because of the coronavirus. According to the Tennessean, the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County has been hosting the annual Juneteenth Celebration at the McLemore House Museum in Franklin for the last 15 years.
This year, however, organizers don't plan to host the usual celebration.
“Juneteenth at the McLemore House will be different this year as there will be no public event due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing guidelines recommended to control the spread of COVID-19," Alma McLemore, president of the African American Heritage Foundation, told the Tennessean.
But organizers are still asking the community to take part in a week of virtual events as a way to remember the significance of the holiday.
5. Green Bay will protest and celebrate
In Green Bay, one resident talked about keeping the Juneteenth celebration separate from the recent protests honoring George Floyd and other victims of police brutality.
"Well the protesting wasn't a celebration, it was tragic that happened. It was beautiful that we all united, but it wasn't a celebration. Juneteenth is a celebration, this is for our African American heritage," Green Bay resident Dajahnae Williams told Fox 11 News.
Still, there will be an event at Perkins Park in Green Bay to protest police brutality and celebrate Juneteenth. The event will include children's games, speakers and performances.
6. Birmingham is celebrating with a week of festivities
A week-long celebration is also happening in Birmingham, Alabama. Led by the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation of Alabama and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the celebration started on Saturday with a parade, according to Bham Now.
The celebration continued on Sunday in Kelly Ingram Park, with fun and educational activities for children. A 100 Women March will also be a part of the celebration on Friday. To close the event on Saturday, the community will take part in the Annual candlelight Vigil for the Ancestors.
7. Chatham County will gather safely and with limits
Some communities like Chatham County, North Carolina, are celebrating with restrictions because of the coronavirus. According to Chatham News+Record, Chatham Organizing for Racial Equity is working with the county's public health department to put together a celebration with limits on the number of attendees.
The two-day event will include catering on Friday and a Juneteenth program that will be available virtually on Saturday. Dancers and artists will take part in the event, highlighting Black culture, spirituality and art.
8. Knoxville community shows full support for local event
In Knoxville, Tennesse, organizers are still expecting a great turn out. Constance Every, a member of the Black Lives Matter Knoxville chapter and founder of Black Coffee, is leading a celebration in the city.
“It’s important that we uplift Juneteenth, this is the Black nation’s freedom day,” Every told 6ABC.
With the event fully funded and the community's desire to be involved, Every is excited for the festivities to begin.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the sea of people from multiple backgrounds multiple colors, nationalities, ethnicities, religions, sexualities — you name it, whatever makes us diversified is going to be dope to watch us come together as one and watch diversity melt away when we’re unifying for a cause and purpose that is about people’s lives,” Every said.
In addition to food and entertainment, the Knoxville celebration will have a voter registration booth.
“Nationally we need to do this to further increase our power, our movement and make sure that we are pushing for the same reform we are fighting for right now,” Every said. “Which is justice for the loss of life of George Floyd as well as the reform of the police departments nationally across this country. We have to put a stop to this and let’s use Juneteenth, as we have done the other movements around the country, to also uplift that power.”
9. Philadelphia festival goes virtual
In Philadelphia, a 13-year event is going virtual because of the coronavirus. The Juneteenth street festival, which was hosted on Germantown Avenue in previous years, will be held online. Instead of having street vendors, the organizers are allowing businesses to display their ads during the virtual event. The public can join the celebration for free through Facebook, Zoom or by phone. Historic reenactments and music will be included in the celebration.
10. Utah plans a week of virtual celebrations
There are several virtual celebrations happening in Salt Lake City, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The events, which will continue online throughout the week, will cover several topics. Some of the virtual festivities include music, seminars, discussions and a movie screening. A flag-raising ceremony will be held in person with social distancing guidelines in place.
“We think it’s the safe thing to do,” said Betty Sawyer, director of the Utah Juneteenth Freedom & Heritage Festival.
11. Texans will be giving back to the community
Austin's virtual Juneteenth celebration on Friday will include live performances, a raffle and food distribution, according to KVUE. The Austin Parks and Recreation Department is working with several organizations to put the event together.
"The Juneteenth Festival is not only a celebration of emancipation and commemoration of a distinctive past, but an opportunity for future generations to learn about our history," the department said in a statement.
Organizers of the Stay Black and Live event will be at the George Washington Carver Museum parking lot to distribute 600 plates to community members impacted by the coronavirus.
"In a time when Black communities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and the global pandemic has laid bare the historic inequalities that have plagued this country from its inception, it is critically important that the fight for Black Lives continues," the department stated. "Stay Black and Live, is a call to action, a celebration of a history and culture that is unapologetic."
12. Cincinnati will host its 33rd annual Juneteenth celebration virtually
In Cincinnati, the 33rd annual Juneteenth Festival will be replaced with Virtual Juneteenth.
"For the past 32 years Cincinnati has celebrated Emancipation and the end of slavery with a Juneteenth Festival in a Cincinnati park," organizers said in a statement. "Unfortunately COVID-19 and the necessity for social distancing have forced cancellation of the 2020 Festival that had been scheduled for the weekend of June 20."
In lieu of the event, organizers collaborated with scheduled performers to produce a free virtual concert video. The performances will be available for viewing on local cable channels and social media.
13. John Legend and Alicia Keys will battle on Verzuz
John Legend and Alicia Keys will go head-to-head on the piano as part of a special edition of Verzuz on Friday.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 13, 2020
The battle between Legend and Keys will be broadcasted on social media as part of the Instagram Live series, whose friendly matchups have provided entertainment during the pandemic.
14. Multiple events planned in Galveston
In Galveston, Texas, a ceremony including 150 people will take place on Monday, according to ABC13. The event will provide an opportunity for attendees to discuss the meaning of the holiday and the current state of social justice. The celebration will continue on Tuesday when the Galveston Historical Foundation shares archived photos with the public to further explain the history of Juneteenth.
Galveston will also host the 41st annual Al Edwards' Juneteenth celebration on Friday and distribute food to senior citizens.
According to ABC13, Al Edwards is the former state representative who sponsored a bill to create the holiday.
15. Illinois Holocaust Museum celebrates Juneteenth
The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center is planning to hold a free virtual Juneteenth event on Wednesday, according to CBS 2. The celebration will feature NAACP civil rights attorney Sherrilyn Ifill, who will discuss the significance of this year's celebration following the death of George Floyd.
Alex Kotlowitz, a journalist, filmmaker and writer, will moderate the program, according to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. Rick Salomon, vice president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum Board of Directors, will introduce the event.
16. Charlotte is bringing back the durag fest
Organizers in Charlotte are planning to come together and unite for Juneteenth while celebrating Black people in all of their glory with Freedom March, an event hosted by the organizers of the Durag Festival.
Attendees are asked to wear durags or clothing representing their Black and African heritage, and the event will include speakers and live performances.
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FREEDOM MARCH Join: @BLKMRKTCLT @DuragFest @ItEndsNowClt @HealCharlotte @GenerationGenesis1 @JuneteenthUnityFair and many more, as we celebrate and observe the Juneteenth holiday featuring a speaking engagement and peaceful protest. Juneteenth is a holiday to honor the freedom of Black Americans from slavery; this event hopes to educate the Charlotte community and beyond about its importance and to continue effective means of action against racial injustice. There will be live entertainment and attendees are encouraged to wear durags and/or clothing that represents Black American and African heritage. This event promotes social distancing. All attendees are encouraged to wear masks and take needed safety and health precautions. Click the link in bio to RSVP now ✊????✊????✊????
The event will be taking place in person, so people are asked to wear masks.
While Juneteenth may not be recognized as a federal holiday yet, that isn't stopping communities from coming together to celebrate the end of slavery during this monumental and pivotal time.