Juneteenth celebrations in the DC area include fireworks and special National Archives display

June 19 is Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee Day and Black Independence Day

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Juneteenth is a national holiday marking the end of slavery in the United States, celebrated every year on June 19.

The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, when news of liberation reached 250,000 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, the Smithsonian Museum says. That was two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Observances are often joyful and frequently celebrate the legacies of those who fought for freedom. They come through prayer, family gatherings and food. For many cities, it's an opportunity to create larger events including parades and festivals.

One historically Black church congregation, Scotland AME Zion Church on Seven Locks Road in Potomac, is hosting a days-long celebration across multiple locations, and capping the celebrations with Montgomery County's first Juneteenth fireworks show, according to a press release.

Learning and education remain an integral part of the holiday,  Dr. Dennis Doster, Ph.D, the Black History Program Manager at Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, said.

"We have a lot of people that kind of jumped on the Juneteenth bandwagon without really knowing what the celebration is about. It’s really is about a time to learn about our history, reflect on our history," Doster said.

Doster helped plan a Juneteenth festival at Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, with a day of local bands, history experiences and art activities.

"For us, it’s one event of many that we do throughout the year that’s about lifting up and honoring Black history and culture. Because when we create those opportunities, for education, for better understanding for dialogue, it just makes us better as a society," he said.

Juneteenth is the newest federal holiday, first recognized in 2021. But, it's been celebrated for generations by Black Americans, Brandon Byrd, Associate Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, told NBCLX.

The federal holiday is heavily celebrated in the D.C. area and is also referred to as a second Independence Day, Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day and Black Independence Day. 

Here are some events in the D.C. area if you'd like to celebrate. 

Juneteenth events in Washington, D.C.

Display of the Emancipation Proclamation and General Order No. 3
June 18-20, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., National Archives, free

The original versions of the Emancipation Proclamation and the document at the root of the Juneteenth holiday will be on display at the National Archives, which will open for extended hours to give visitors more chances to see them.

The Emancipation Proclamation famously declared some people who were enslaved in the Confederacy were free, but the struggle was far from over.

On June 19, 1865, U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, confirming the freedom of 250,000 people who remained enslaved in Texas.

The first sentence of the order reads: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

The date “became known as ‘Juneteenth,’ and the African American community in Texas long celebrated it as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day,” Mary Ryan of the National Archives wrote.

This year will be the fourth that the National Archives has displayed General Order No. 3 in honor of Juneteenth.

ONE DC's Juneteenth celebrations

June 17 to 21

ONE DC, a community-based organization is hosting several days of Juneteenth events.

The centerpiece is the community festival on Wednesday at the Black Workers & Wellness Center at 2500 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, including live music, history lessons, food and art.

Anacostia Community Museum’s Juneteenth Freedom Celebration

Weds., June 19, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., free

The Anacostia Community Museum will host a day of live music outdoors, including performances by Noochie, CuzzinB, Too Much Talent Band, Alex Vaugn and Dupont Brass, plus kid-friendly activities including Double Dutch.

Make sure to stop inside to the see the museum’s latest exhibition, “A Bold and Beautiful Vision: A Century of Black Arts Education in Washington, D.C., 1900-2000.”

You’re welcome to bring drinks, prepared food and a blanket for a picnic, but no cooking or alcohol are allowed. Local food trucks will also be available.

People's Juneteenth on the White House Ellipse

Weds., June 19, 10:30 a.m., free

United States Colored Troops and Buffalo Soldier reenactors will lead a parade from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the White House Ellipse. On the Ellipse, expect music and a Juneteenth flag-raising.

Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice

Through Sept. 10, Smithsonian American Art Museum, free admission

William H. Johnson made a series, “Fighters for Freedom” to honor Black activists, scientists, teachers, performers, and international heads of people who work to bring peace. The 34 painting exhibition honors some historical figures and their accomplishments.

In the virtual conversation on Tuesday, June 18, curators will discuss two pieces loaned by Hampton University Art Museum as well as other works from the exhibition. 

Step Afrika! performs "The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence"

Through July 14, Arena Stage in Southwest D.C., $41+

Inspired by the series of Jacob Lawrence paintings at The Phillips Collection, Step Afrika! is using its telling the story of the Great Migration on the Kreeger Theater stage, using their signature percussive dance-theater style.

Juneteenth events in Maryland

The Annual Scotland Juneteenth Heritage Festival 

Sat., June 15 to Weds., June 19, various locations in Montgomery County, free

Scotland AME Zion Church, a historically Black church off Seven Locks Road in Potomac, is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding and reprising its Juneteenth Heritage Festival for a second year in 2024. The church raised $60,000 for a repair and expansion project last year, when it drew nearly 10,000 people to celebrate. This year, it will share the proceeds with five community organizations, according to a press release.

The festival begins on Saturday, June 15, with a night of music headlined by Chuck Brown Band at the Bethesda Theater.

Sports clinics and an interfaith breakfast are also on the packed schedule of events.

Juneteenth will bring festivals to Cabin John Village and Cabin John Park, including a Children's Caribbean Carnival, and the grand finale will be a fireworks show at Shirley Povich Field at 9:45 p.m. Organizers say they'll be the first Juneteenth fireworks in Montgomery County.

Freedom Day Black-Owned Marketplace
Wed., June, 19, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Capital Canopy at National Harbor

National Harbor will host events all day with Black-owned businesses, including food and clothing vendors. There's also a free Sip and Paint event at 1 p.m. Stick around for the Juneteenth Cultural Showcase from 5-7 p.m., featuring Secret Society Band, the Eleanor Roosevelt High School step team and Prince George’s Poet Laureate.

Carr’s Beach Reunion
Weds., June 19, 3-7 p.m., Annapolis Maritime Museum and Park, 7300 Edgewood Road, Annapolis, Maryland, free

From the 1920s to the 1960s, Carr's was one of the few beaches in the D.C. area where African Americans could swim freely and without the fear of discrimination. And it became famous for its live music.

Now, Annapolis is bringing back Carr’s Beach for Juneteenth with performances from The Voices of Motown, Philly Soul bands and J.J. Fingers band will perform at the Carr’s/Elktonia Beach. Get camera-ready if you want to speak to a videographer about your Carr’s beach memories (the videos will be presented at a future visitor’s center, according to a press release). You can also pick up goodies from food trucks and vendors at the event.

Juneteenth by the Prince George’s Parks Black History Program

Sat., June 15, noon to 5 p.m., Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro, free

Chuck Brown Band, Big Tony and Trouble Funk, Brencore Allstars Band and Luther ReLives (singing the ballads of Luther Vandross) are a big draw of Prince George’s County’s main Juneteenth festival, but it’s also about education and community.

“I think that this is a great event for people to, first, come out and have a great time and enjoy themselves, but also we cannot, you know, forget that this is an opportunity for education and learning,” Doster, one of the festival organizers, said.

History experiences and art activities are also in the works. Cheverly artist Jeffrey Felten-Green is the 2024 featured artist, and plenty of local food and merch vendors will be there, too.

Juneteenth events in Virginia

Arlington Community Juneteenth Celebration & Cookout

Weds., June 19, 4-7 p.m., Metropolitan Park in Arlington, free

Come together in Arlington’s Met Park for live music, performances, food and family-friendly activities. This year’s theme is, “What freedom means to me.” It’s hosted by a group of Arlington organizations including the historical society, local NAACP and Arlington Coalition of Black Clergy.

Juneteenth at Manassas National Battlefield Park

Sat., June 15, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 12521 Lee Highway, Manassas, Virginia, free

The historic site is dedicating its newest exhibit, dedicated to blacksmith Andrew Redman, on Juneteenth. Redman, who was born into enslavement and said he earned his freedom, ran a blacksmith shop in the wake of the Civil War, the National Park Service says.

The dedication of the shop, set for 1:30 p.m., will be followed by an interpretive program sharing Redman’s story and blacksmithing demonstrations. Walking tours, history talks and a hands-on children's archaeology activity are also planned.

Frying Pan Farm Park
Sat., June 15, 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m., Herndon, Virginia, free

Explore the history of the Black congregants of the Frying Pan Baptist Meeting House, who fought for greater freedoms and formed their own community after emancipation, according to Fairfax County Parks.

Alexandria Juneteenth celebrations

Fri., June 14 to Sat., June 22

The commemorations kick off with a musical storytelling show from Grammy-nominated performer Culture Queen on Friday, June 14, followed by a remembrance ceremony at Douglass Cemetery on Saturday.

Head to Market Square on Juneteenth for storytelling, music and spoken word on Juneteenth, starting at 1:30 p.m.

Here's the full list of events and historic sites to visit.

WalkArlington Presents: Juneteenth Black Heritage Walk

Sun., June 16, 1-3 p.m., Arlington, Virginia, free

Join Craig Syphax, a leader in the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, for a two-hour guided tour of sites with historical and family significance. Attendees can meet at Towers Park.

CORRECTION (June 15, 2024, 8:30 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated that Juneteenth is a holiday marking the event of slavery in the United States. It marks the end of slavery in the United States, not the event of slavery.

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