Honoring Black History on Juneteenth

This Saturday is Juneteenth , a holiday dedicated to the end of slavery in the United States, celebrated by African Americans since the ...


This Saturday is Juneteenth, a holiday dedicated to the end of slavery in the United States, celebrated by African Americans since the late 19th century.

The holiday commemorates the moment on June 19, 1865, when Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to tell enslaved African Americans of their freedom, said Michelle Commander, an associate director and curator at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. (News of the Emancipation Proclamation did not arrive there until more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued it.)

“Juneteenth is a moment where we celebrate, but it’s also a moment where we lament,” Dr. Commander said. “Because we see a lot of the ways where the racism that undergirded slavery reverberates in our contemporary society.”

Though Juneteenth was initially observed predominantly in Texas, it has spread to African American communities across the country. Last year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York signed an executive order making it a holiday for state employees, and companies are beginning to honor it as a paid day off.

The civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s brought particular focus to it, Dr. Commander said — “In the midst of that moment, they were still thinking about what independence means” — but the holiday came to greater prominence last year, as protests against police violence and structural racism swept across the country.

Observances have varied over the years — and are still evolving. As Gina Cherelus put it last year in The Times:

For some, it’s eating barbecue, shooting fireworks, gathering at a cookout and sipping on red drinks, a tradition that symbolizes perseverance and honors the blood that was shed of African Americans. For others, it’s shopping only at Black-owned businesses, sharing history or resting at home.

Indeed, Juneteenth-related events happening in the city run the gamut. If you’re not ready for an in-person celebration just yet, the Schomburg Center will close out its annual literary festival on Saturday with a day of virtual readings and discussions exploring the significance of freedom, featuring prominent Black authors including Clint Smith and Kiese Laymon.

Also on Saturday, the African Burial Ground National Monument, which sits on top of the remains of an estimated 15,000 of the city’s enslaved and free African Americans, will stream a ceremony to honor those interred there, followed by a discussion about the significance of Juneteenth.

In Brooklyn, after going virtual last year, the Juneteenth NY Festival will return to East New York with an in-person, family-friendly festival. On Saturday, you can expect food, games and performances from local groups.

Experience Harlem is hosting a “shop and sip” to support Black-owned businesses. If you make a purchase at one of the participating stores, you’ll get a ticket for a free cocktail to be redeemed at a restaurant.

If you’re a get-up-and-go type, the Keith Institute is holding a Juneteenth solidarity 5K that stretches from Highbridge Park in Washington Heights down to Morningside Park. (Looking for something a bit less active? They’re following it up with a “dance in the park” concert and barbecue.)

If you’re more of a biker, the Good Company Bike Club will hold its second annual Freedom Ride. Organizers promise a “calm ride” that kicks off with music at the steps of the Brooklyn Museum, travels down to Coney Island and then back to Fort Greene Park, with a stop at least one Black-owned bar along the way back.

The Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden on Staten Island will host a daylong celebration that will include a re-enactment of the reading of General Granger’s order and a Harlem Renaissance-themed fashion show.

Finally, if you want to join in the festivities from home, on Thursday, The Times is hosting a virtual event featuring the musicians Questlove and Esperanza Spalding, and others, as part of our series Black History, Continued. R.S.V.P. here.

  • Free fun: Explore Manhattan’s Chinatown with a scavenger hunt — as part of the Meet Us in Chinatown event on Thursday. (For the less competitive, there will also be tai chi, music and other activities.)

  • Going solo?: The Tenement Museum just reopened and has a new walking tour that explores Black history in the city, particularly on the Lower East Side. Grab a bite at Essex Market after.

  • Date night: Take in some culture with the City Opera’s Pride in the Park performance at Bryant Park on Friday night.

  • In Queens: After canceling last year because of the pandemic, the Queens Night Market returns to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. You’ll need a ticket to get in, but vendors are serving up food from around the world, and everything is around $5, so arrive hungry.

  • Family fun: Put on an aquatic-themed outfit on Saturday and head to the Hunts Point Fish Parade and summer festival in the Bronx, where you can celebrate local artists.

  • Early voting? We’ve got you covered: There’s a primary election for mayor on Tuesday, but early voting runs through Sunday. So if you tweet your early voting site at Julia or me, we’ll try to find an activity for you nearby.

    What do you want to hear from us this summer? Are there events or venues we should know about? Send us a note at summer@nytimes.com.



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