Discover how Alexandria celebrates Juneteenth, a historic holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, with events and festivities.

Culture Queen: Juneteenth Jubilee
Friday, June 14, 10:30 a.m.
Beatley Central Library, 5005 Duke Street

Join Grammy nominated performer Culture Queen for an interactive musical storytelling show and honor the meaning of the Juneteenth holiday. All ages. Beatley Central Library Reading Garden. More information…

Douglass Cemetery Remembrance
Saturday, June 15, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
At the Cemetery, 1421 Wilkes Street

Sponsored by the Social Responsibility Group (SRG) and Friends of Douglass Cemetery. This annual event honors those buried at Alexandria’s historic African American Cemetery.  Learn about plans for the preservation of this Alexandria landmark. Program includes speakers and tours of the Cemetery. 

Parking. Limited seating. Please wear appropriate shoes for uneven terrain.

National Juneteenth Holiday
Wednesday, June 19, 1:30 p.m.
Market Square, 301 King Street

Join the Office of Historic Alexandria’s Division of African American History for storytelling and music that celebrate Juneteenth and African American heritage. The Washington Revels Jubilee Voices will present a lively, interactive concert featuring traditional music, dance, and spoken word that celebrates Juneteenth, local stories, history, and the enduring legacy of the African American quest for freedom and equality. This presentation is co-sponsored by Washington Revels and the Office of Historic Alexandria. 

1:30 Storytelling with Oumie and Van Di Galloway
2:00 Concert with Washington Revels Jubilee Voices

Bench Dedication and Juneteenth Activities
Saturday, June 22
Bench Dedication,11 a.m. to Noon
Juneteenth Activities, Noon to 6 p.m.
Charles Houston Recreation Center
901 Wythe Street

Gather for reception at 10:30, with remarks at 11 a.m. A Civil Rights Appreciation: Saying the Their Names. This event includes the dedication of a Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial bench, sponsored by McArthur Myers.

Noon to 6 p.m.  Juneteenth Activities at the Charles Houston Recreation Center parking lot. Enjoy food and retail vendors, a moon bounce, information tables, music, and performances.

African American sites open for Juneteenth in Alexandria 

Hours for Wednesday June 19
Admission Charged / Free to Alexandria Residents 

  • Freedom House Museum – 1315 Duke Street
    open from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm – 703.746.4702 
  • Alexandria Black History Museum – 902 Wythe Street
    open from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm – 703.746.4356 

Regular Hours for African American Sites in Alexandria 

  • Alexandria Black History Museum 
    Thursdays and Fridays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sundays, 1-5 p.m. 
  • Freedom House Museum 
    Thursdays and Fridays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sundays and Mondays, 1-5 p.m. 

Juneteenth: A Time of Reflection and Rejoicing

Frederick Douglass portrait (Library of Congress)
Frederick Douglass was keynote speaker at the 31st anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation on September 24, 1894.

On June 19th, we celebrate Juneteenth (June + 19th), commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. On that day in 1865, General Gordon Granger of the Union Army and his troops arrived in Galveston to announce that the enslaved people in Texas were free and that “…rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

It took approximately 2 1/2 years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation for the news to reach the enslaved people in Texas that slaves in the rebellious states had been freed and for a sufficient number of soldiers to be in this remote area to enforce the executive order.

Texans began celebrating Juneteenth in 1866 and it was proclaimed an official state holiday in 1980. Emancipation celebrations throughout the years have included picnics and barbecues, family reunions, parades, music and dancing, speeches and stories, prayer services and learning, rodeos and horseback riding, carnivals and bazaars, beauty pageants, fishing, baseball games, and races.

While Texas chose June 19th as its Emancipation Day, some localities used the date when its enslaved population received the news of liberation. Yet others preferred January 1st, the date the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in 1863 or September 22nd, when President Lincoln first announced the Proclamation in 1862.

John Mercer Langston portrait (Library of Congress)
John Mercer Langston delivered keynote speeches in Alexandria in 1895 and 1897.

In Alexandria, there has been some discussion about observing Emancipation Day on April 7th, the date that the slaves were emancipated in Virginia. With a rich history of observance beginning in 1889, Alexandrians have celebrated on different days of the year and in different months. The first decade featured two eminent and renowned speakers, Frederick Douglass and John Mercer Langston. Douglass, abolitionist and orator, was the keynote speaker at the 31st anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation on September 24, 1894. Langston, the first African American elected to the United States Congress from Virginia, delivered keynote speeches in 1895 and 1897.

More recently, the Alexandria Black History Museum has celebrated Juneteenth for almost 30 years. Small festivals began with a mayoral reading of the Emancipation Proclamation followed by food, vendors, performances, and children’s games and crafts. Later observances have included film screenings, children’s programming, an open house featuring doll houses of historic Alexandria, and lectures by notable speakers, such as U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black, co-sponsored by the Northern Virginia Urban League, and historian C.R. Gibbs.

Although different localities may have varying Emancipation dates with diverse activities and programs, Juneteenth has come to symbolize emancipation, recognized in almost every state and the District of Columbia, incorporating African traditions with themes of freedom, hope, achievement, education, and respect for all cultures.

#Juneteenth, #Alexandria, #Celebrate

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