Juneteenth, or “Freedom Day” is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. This holiday is considered the “longest running African-American holiday” and has been called “America’s second Independence Day.” It was on June 19, 1865, that Union soldiers, led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, landed in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that all enslaved people were free.
The first Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, praying and gathering remaining family members together. For decades, Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date. In the early years, there was little interest outside the African American community in participating in the celebrations. Some communities even barred the use of public property for the festivities.
Since its origin in Galveston, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the U.S. and beyond. Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas, a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future.
In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of each other, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society.
Maritime Heritage Park
2 - 6 p.m.
Sponsored by the Bellingham Unity Committee
Willis D. Tucker Park
NAACP Juneteenth Celebration
11 a.m. – 4 p.m
Seattle (Rainier Beach)
Rainier Beach Community Center
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Seattle (Seattle Center)
- June 17 from 6 to 9 p.m.
- June 18 from noon to 9 p.m.
- June 19 from noon to 7 p.m.
Other Ways to Celebrate
Tour the Slavery and Freedom Collection
Take a video tour of the Slavery and Freedom collection at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which includes items such as Nat Turner's bible and freedom papers of free African Americans
Get out in Nature
Go to a state park for free: Juneteenth has been designated as a “Discover Pass free day” so on Saturday, June 19th you can explore Washington state parks and recreation lands for free.
Attend a Virtual Literary Festival
Attend a free Juneteenth virtual literary festival offered by the New York Public Library on June 19
Read with your Kids
Listen to Laura Smalley
Laura Smalley was a formerly enslaved person in Texas. Listen to her describe what it was like to hear the news about freedom on that first Juneteenth in 1865.