How to celebrate Juneteenth in 2021 — and why it remains so important
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.
Saturday, June 19, marks an important day in United States history.
On this day in 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, heralding an important announcement: The Civil War was over, and slavery was outlawed.
While slavery had been banned by the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years earlier, many slave owners had ignored the executive order and continued to hold people captive. With Granger’s announcement, June 19 became known as the true day of African-American freedom and the end of slavery in the United States.
Last year, the coronavirus pandemic presented challenges for hosting in-person Juneteenth celebrations, and many events were moved, at least partially, online. But this year, many celebrations are planning to happen in person.
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What Juneteenth means in the travel industry
Juneteenth has long been an important holiday in the African-American community, but it’s rarely been thrust into the spotlight or celebrated by all Americans. And that needs to change.
TPG’s credit cards editor, Benét Wilson, said, “My father’s parents were both from San Antonio, Texas, which is where Juneteenth originated. I grew up pre-internet, so my parents were really great about teaching us about Black history and traditions. Growing up, we celebrated Juneteenth as a picnic. We’d discuss the meaning, but it was really more about being with family. I didn’t realize until high school (when we moved to Washington, D.C.) that people didn’t know that it was a significant day in the Black experience.”
Dayvee Sutton, a national travel and lifestyle correspondent, echoed Wilson. “Juneteenth is an American independence day, celebrated primarily by the descendants of people who were enslaved in this country, or what we like to say, ‘African-Americans,'” Sutton told TPG. “But, it should be a day celebrated by all Americans because it is American history. And all Americans should be happy that the enslaved are free, right? …It is important to not only know the truths of the past but to confront them as well if we are genuinely in a space where we can move forward together.”
Where you can celebrate Juneteenth in 2021
Around the country, Juneteenth is typically marked by parades and other celebrations. While many events were moved online last year, more events are being scheduled for in-person celebration and commemoration.
In the Galveston area, locals and visitors can visit the official Juneteenth marker, located at the Strand near 22nd Street beneath the oak trees. And the 42nd annual Al Edwards Juneteenth Celebration — the state representative whose bill created the holiday — will take place starting at 10 a.m. CST. And make sure to check out the dedication of the Juneteenth Legacy Project’s “Absolute Equality” public art installation at the Old Galveston Square Building. The official dedication begins at 10:30 a.m. with a drum call by Curt Gillins, but you can visit the History Fair anytime from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Other events and guests will be there throughout the day.
And, of course, there will be a parade at 1 p.m. that begins at 26th and Ball and extends down to 41st.
This is the first year Juneteeth will be an official holiday in the city of Galveston, meaning all non-emergency city offices will be closed and city employees will have the day off.
Denver, Colorado, declared Juneteenth an official commemorative holiday earlier this year, and the city will host the Juneteenth Music Festival and parade in the historic Five Points neighborhood.
“This year, we plan to have one of the biggest Juneteenth celebrations the city has ever seen,” Norman Harris III, executive director of the music festival, told The Know.
The city is also planning ways to introduce intersectional events that celebrate Black Pride. Historically, PrideFest had been held on the same weekend, which would unintentionally force people to choose to attend one or the other (or try to balance spending half of the time at one and then switching to the other). This year, PrideFest events are being held June 26–27 with a mix of in-person and virtual events.
For those in the D.C. area, Alexandria, Virginia, has an entire lineup of Juneteenth events — some in-person and others virtual.
You can visit a self-guided virtual look at the waterfront African American Heritage Trail, which highlights the people, places and neighborhoods along the Potomac and their historical significance. Plus, a virtual concert is being held with the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices at 2 p.m.
If you want to learn more about Black history — an important part of American history that often gets overlooked — there are tours in Alexandria you can check out during Juneteenth. The Lee-Fendall House is hosting a tour at 2 p.m. (admission is $10 per person), where you can explore the house through the lens of the enslaved and free African Americans who built and shaped the Lee-Fendall house throughout history. The Manumission Tour Company is also hosting multiple cultural heritage tours on June 19th and throughout weekends in June (admission is $15 for adults and $12 for children) in Old Town, Alexandria.
New York, New York
In New York City, there is another full line-up of events throughout each borough. In Queens, the Juneteeth Festival is from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. at St. Albans Park. At Highbridge Park in Manhattan is the Juneteenth March NYC from noon until 6 p.m. The Big Black Kickback at Brooklyn Bridge Park will happen from noon until 8 p.m. And that is only to name a few.
Farther south in Atlanta, you can attend the Juneteeth Atlanta Parade and Music Festival happening all weekend at Centennial Olympic Park. The parade starts at noon on Saturday with the theme “True Identity=True Freedom.”
These are only a handful of the events going on around the country this Juneteenth weekend. Last year’s Black Lives Matter protests shined a light on a holiday that hasn’t received nearly enough attention from non-Black Americans despite its major significance as part of our country’s history. And while 2020 was a stark reminder to many of how far away the nation is from true equality for all, Juneteeth is an opportunity to celebrate and commemorate an important step toward freedom and equality in American history.
Whether you plan to commemorate the holiday at home with loved ones, virtually at one of the online events or in-person now that more festivals and parades are returning this year, Juneteenth is also time for meaningful reflection, unplugging and reconnecting with family and loved ones.
Vikkie Walker, a reporter at TPG, said, “As a general rule, I don’t celebrate the Fourth of July, but I do celebrate and honor Juneteenth, the day commemorating the end of chattel slavery in the United States. Last year, I didn’t do much to celebrate due to COVID. This year, I plan to break bread, drink and connect with a couple of close friends.”
Here at TPG, we encourage you to also take time to reflect and unplug if you can. No matter where or how you’re celebrating, it’s an important day to take a step back and acknowledge where we’ve come from — and, more importantly, where we are going.
Additional reporting by Samantha Rosen.
Featured photo by Tippman98x/Shutterstock.
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