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6 Cities to Visit for Unique Juneteenth Observances

Take a road trip to celebrate the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery

spinner image a band playing music marching in the galveston texas juneteenth parade
Band members participate in the 2021 Juneteenth parade in Galveston, Texas.
Godofredo A. Vásquez/Houston Chronicle via AP

On June 19, 1866, Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, celebrated the country’s first Juneteenth. This was the first anniversary of the day the U.S. Army reached Galveston and notified enslaved people that they were free. From there, Juneteenth celebrations spread across Texas, and eventually, the United States. Juneteenth celebrations dissipated in the early half of the 20th century, but interest renewed during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. 

This is the second year that Juneteenth has been a federal holiday, and cities across the country are planning elaborate celebrations. Many of the events are scheduled for the weekend before the holiday, which falls on a Monday this year. There are Juneteenth events just a road trip away, no matter where you live in the U.S.

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Here are six cities across the U.S. that are planning unique Juneteenth celebrations.

spinner image children watching motorcyclists ride by during the juneteenth parade in galveston texas
June 19, 1865, was the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, found out they were free. Here, Galveston’s 2021 Juneteenth parade.
Godofredo A. Vásquez/Houston Chronicle via AP

Galveston

As the birthplace of Juneteenth, Galveston is a natural choice for the holiday weekend. The city has dozens of Juneteenth exhibits and events planned for June, with many of them happening the weekend before the holiday. One such exhibit, called “Thursday Night Lights,” at the Bryan Museum, tells the story of Texas’ segregated high school football league. The exhibit (adults: $14; $12 for age 65 and over) runs through July 2. On June 15, the Bryan Museum will host a panel discussion with Michael Hurd, the author of the book on which the exhibit is based.

Visitors can also check out the permanent Juneteenth exhibit, “And Still We Rise,” in the carriage house of 1859 Ashton Villa. The exhibit tells of the evolution of Juneteenth celebrations from its 19th-century roots to today. It’s open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT, Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. and Monday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Adults: $10; children: $5; children 5 and younger: free.)

spinner image a vendor selling carved art and baskets at milwaukee juneteenth in wisconsin
Milwaukee’s Juneteenth celebration includes vendors and a parade.
Visit Milwaukee

Milwaukee

Juneteenth started in Galveston, but Milwaukee has been celebrating it for more years without interruption than anywhere else in the country, according to the city festival’s organizers. Milwaukee had its first Juneteenth celebration in 1971, and last year’s brought in at least 50,000 people. Vendors from as far away as California set up booths to sell food, art and more.

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This year’s festival on June 19 will have zones for everyone, including a play area designated for kids, and separate zones for teens, older adults and veterans. The festival will be wheelchair accessible, and scooters will be available upon request near the senior center.

Organizers say the parade and festival are a great opportunity for people of all backgrounds to learn about and experience African American culture.

spinner image the grave of harriet tubman davis in auburn new york
A tour of Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York, on Juneteenth includes a stop at Harriet Tubman’s grave.
Alamy

Auburn, New York

At most a six-hour drive from major northeastern cities such as New York, Boston and Philadelphia, Auburn prides itself on being the final home of abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Travelers can visit Tubman’s home, her grave and the church she helped fund. On June 19, historians will lead guided tours, including a free tour of the cemetery where Tubman is buried. The tour will also share information on other African Americans laid to rest in Fort Hill Cemetery.

Another notable piece of Juneteenth programming features political activist and author Angela Davis. Legal analyst and TV anchor Jami Floyd will moderate a Q&A session with Davis on June 15. Tickets start at $39.19.

spinner image the skyline of berkeley california
Berkeley, Califorrnia, in the foreground, is hosting a week’s worth of community events leading up to the Juneteenth festival on June 18.
Getty Images

Berkeley, California

Berkeley’s African American community has organized Juneteenth festivals since 1987. This year, there’s a new format: a week’s worth of community events across the city, leading up to the Juneteenth festival on Sunday, June 18, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The festival is free to attend and wheelchair accessible with ADA-compliant toilets.

The week before the festival, visitors can choose from community workshops on preserving family stories, healing African American historical trauma, and using legal strategies to reduce exposure to the criminal justice system. Organizers are also offering an interfaith prayer service and a softball tournament.

spinner image greenwood rising black wall street history center in tulsa oklahoma
The Greenwood Rising museum tells the story of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street. Tulsa’s Juneteenth celebration this year includes a two-day block party.
Alamy

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa’s Juneteenth events, June 15-17, will be centered on Black liberation. A block party will offer live entertainment Friday and Saturday on Greenwood Avenue, the original home of Tulsa’s Black business community.

While in town, travelers can also visit the Greenwood Rising museum, which tells the story of Greenwood’s Black Wall Street and the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The museum is open Wednesday-Monday, and closed on Tuesday. Timed-entrance tickets (adults: $15; seniors: $10) can be reserved in advance. The museum will not be open on Juneteenth this year.

spinner image johnnie alston leading the baltimore all stars marching unit down auburn avenue in atlanta georgia for the juneteenth parade
A member of the Baltimore All-Stars Marching Unit participates in Atlanta’s 2021 Juneteenth parade.
AP Photo/Ben Gray

Atlanta

There will be plenty of shopping at Atlanta’s Juneteenth festival, June 16-18. Organizers have secured more than 400 vendors, many of them Black-owned shops, to set up booths throughout downtown Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park. Four stages will have rotating musical and spoken word performances.

Adult festivalgoers can relive their childhood with double Dutch demonstrations from the 40+ Double Dutch club. On June 18, organizers hope to set a Guinness world record for the largest drum circle. Their goal is to pull 5,000 volunteer drummers from the crowd, no matter their experience level, to drum together around the 22-acre park.

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