What is Juneteenth, and why is it important?
Short for “June Nineteenth,” Juneteenth is a holiday celebrating freedom! It is also referred to as Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Emancipation Day and Liberation Day.
So how is Juneteenth different from Independence Day? Many Americans recognize July 4, 1776 as a day of freedom. Unfortunately, many Americans were still enslaved on that day, and many days after that. Their slavery continued until June 19, 1865. That’s when a Union Army General by the name of General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas. Granger took control of the state and made sure that ALL enslaved people were freed. He did so more than two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Lincoln had proclaimed the emancipation of enslaved people on January 1, 1863. But it was slave owners who were tasked with telling their slaves they had been freed. Many slave owners didn’t share the news. In fact, some intentionally waited until after the harvest season to inform their slaves that they were free. Granger’s arrival in Texas on June 18, 1865 changed all that. An estimated 250,000 slaves were freed! It was a great historic day when he read General Order No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
One year later, Texas freedmen celebrated “Jubilee Day” and established the annual holiday of Juneteenth.
How is Juneteenth celebrated?
On June 17th, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, is observed every year on June 19.
Now more than ever, Juneteenth is growing and being observed by organizations and communities around the country. Even institutions such as the Henry Ford Museum, the Smithsonian have begun to sponsor Juneteenth-centered events and activities.
Events celebrating Juneteenth include everything from prayer services to barbecues to playlists. Here are a few Juneteenth events happening around Cincinnati this year. And before you head to an event, learn about the meanings of the symbols on the Juneteenth flag here.
Events Near Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio
Juneteenth Festival in Eden Park
June 17, 2023, 12-9 pm
Eden Park, Cincinnati, OH
2023 will be Cincinnati’s 36th Annual Juneteenth Festival. Celebrate the end of slavery with food, fun, shopping, history, historical re-enactments, and two stages of great music. FREE.
Juneteenth Cincinnati has produced the annual Juneteenth Festival since 1988. It began in Daniel Drake Park in Kennedy Heights and moved in the early 1990’s to Eden Park in partnership with the Cincinnati Park Board.
Although not the first celebration of Juneteenth in Cincinnati, it has been Cincinnati’s only annually celebrated Juneteenth event.
Wade in the Water
June 11, 2023, 2-4 pm
Smale Park, Cincinnati, OH
Join the participatory dance along the Ohio River to acknowledge the significance of water to the 400+ year trek into and beyond enslavement.
Flag Raising Ceremonies
Cincinnati Art Museum June 13, 11:00 am
Hamilton County Courthouse and Cincinnati City Hall June 16, 12:00 pm
The Annual In the Street Juneteenth Block Party
June 18, 2023, 4 pm-11pm
Dora District in Downtown Cincinnati
Featuring DJ Prymtime, Natural Progression, and DJ Arie and DJ Rah D
June 15-17, 2023
Daylong celebration at three venues across Springboro, with shuttle service running between all three venues. Music and live performances at North Park Amphitheater (195 Tamarack Trail, Springboro, OH 45066), Underground Railroad site tours starting at the Springboro Area Musuem (110 S Main St, Springboro, OH 45066), and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament at the Coffman Family YMCA (88 Remick Blvd, Springboro, OH 45066).
Juneteenth Emancipation Day in Kettering
Monday, June 19, 2023, 4-7pm
695 Lincoln Park Blvd, Dayton, OH 45429
Free, family event w/ live music, food trucks, local vendors, crafts for children and an inspiring, informative keynote address.