Here's How Cities and Towns Across the Country Are Celebrating Juneteenth

From music festivals to exhibits highlighting Black artists, see some of the celebrations taking place in honor of Juneteenth this weekend

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Juneteeneth is officially a federal holiday! And cities and towns across the country are marking the milestone in a variety of ways, from parades to music festivals and cultural exhibits.

On Thursday, June 17, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, marking the 12th federal holiday in the United States.

The holiday, which falls on June 19th every year, has been celebrated by the Black community for 156 years and marks the day the last enslaved people were freed.

While slavery was technically abolished once Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, it took nearly two-and-a-half more years for the law to be enforced in many Confederate states — most notably in Texas, where the last enslaved Americans were freed in 1865.

Juneteenth flag
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Texas became the first state to recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday in 1980. Nearly every other state has since followed suit, recognizing the holiday in some capacity throughout the decades since.

This month, Hawaii and South Dakota became the last two states to recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday.

Below, we've rounded up how cities and towns across the country are recognizing and celebrating Juneteenth this year.

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Houston, Texas

Juneteenth has been a staple in Texas for over 40 years. The holiday dates back to June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, where Union troops, led by Gen. Gordon Granger, took control of the state and announced that Texas's 250,000 remaining enslaved people were freed.

Now, in nearby Houston, there are a number of celebrations taking place in recognition of the holiday. While the annual parade will not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several events are still lined up.

The Community Music Center of Houston and Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts are hosting a free concert on Friday, June 18, featuring Black orchestra music.

The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum is hosting a BLCK Market Juneteenth Celebration, which will highlight small Black businesses.

Primary Paint Party is hosting a Juneteenth Black Art Exhibit on Saturday, June 19.

And The Heritage Society is putting on a Juneteenth Weekend Fun event, featuring tours of historic properties including the Jack Yates House, Kellum-Noble House and the Fourth Ward College in Sam Houston Park.

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Atlanta, Georgia

In 2011, Georgia became the 37th state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday. Atlanta, which is the birthplace of numerous civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is hosting a number of events.

The Juneteenth Atlanta Parade & Music Festival will take place over three days at Centennial Olympic Park. The event will feature a musical performances, speakers, a Black History Parade and Rally, African drum and dance, a community artists market, ample food trucks and more.

Dallas Fort-Worth, Texas

As the home of the annual Miss Juneteenth pageant, Fort Worth is known for a number of events celebrating the holiday. Most notable is the annual "Opal's Walk LIVE Caravan," led by longtime activist Opal Lee, known as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth." The symbolic two-and-a-half mile walk honors the two-and-a-half years it took for news of freedom to reach all enslaved people in the United States.

Lee, 94, is a lifelong Fort Worth resident and was present when Biden, 78, signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law on Thursday. Lee has dedicated decades to getting Juneteenth recognized as a national holiday.

Charleston, South Carolina

A number of events are taking place across Charleston. Middleton Place, a former plantation which now operates as a cultural education attraction and home to America's oldest landscaped gardens, is hosting a Juneteenth celebration in honor of the 3000-plus enslaved people who lived on the plantation.

Other events include the Gullah Juneteenth Freedom Celebration and the inaugural Juneteenth Freedom Fest.

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia's famous Juneteenth parade first took place in 2016 and has exploded in size in the years since. While this year's parade will not take place due to COVID-19, there will be a series of events including a Freedom Day March, an "Art in the Park" Exhibit at Malcolm X Park featuring work by Black artists and a Juneteenth Freedom Day Float House competition, which will feature businesses and homes decked out in celebration of the holiday.

Los Angeles, California

Among the most notable events in Los Angeles is Leimert Park Rising, a longstanding celebration of Black freedom that takes place over two days. The event is a "celebration of Black liberation built to educate, entertain and activate while featuring art, ideas and performances from local talent," according to the event's website.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Milwaukee is hosting its 50th annual Juneteenth Day Parade on June 19. The parade began in 1971, marking one of the earliest northern celebrations honoring emancipation. The parade, hosted by the Northcott Neighborhood House, has surged in size over the past five decades, and now includes vendors, speakers, food and drinks, a Miss Juneteenth Day Pageant and more.

Brooklyn, New York

New York's Brownsville community has been hosting annual Juneteenth celebrations since 2009. "Each year features a theme that educates the Black community on its history while creatively changing the narrative of the devastating impact of slavery," according to the Juneteenth NY Organization's website. This year, the three-day summit will include events both online and in-person. On Saturday, June 19, there will be an in-person celebration at Herbert Von King Park.

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