The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American and History (NMAAHC) will host a variety of virtual and in-person events and programs highlighting the experiences of African American Juneteenth celebrations. Also known as Freedom Day, Juneteenth marks the moment in United States’ history—June 19, 1865—when the remaining 250,000 enslaved African Americans in Confederate states were legally declared free two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. In the century-and-a half since, the Juneteenth holiday represents a time to gather with family and community, honor the present and reflect on shared history and tradition.
Photographic slide of the Poor People’s Campaign
Collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, copyright Robert Houston.
“Long celebrated in my family, Juneteenth is an opportunity for friends and loved ones to gather together in fellowship and food, reflecting on the profound contributions of African Americans to our nation’s progress,” said Kevin Young, the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
This year’s commemoration will explore the “sense” of freedom by highlighting the music, food and experiences of African American Juneteenth celebrations. In addition to programs celebrating Juneteenth, the museum will also be displaying the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s original speech from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The artifact will be on view from Jun. 9. to Jun. 20. in the “A Changing America” exhibition.
“As we celebrate the first anniversary of the Juneteenth federal holiday, we remember and recognize how the Black community continues to make a way out of no way, overcoming trials and celebrating triumphs while honoring the place and price of freedom.”
Official museum merchandise commemorating the Juneteenth holiday is available on the museum’s website; visitors to the site can choose from shirts, mugs, totes and more to wear during Juneteenth get-togethers or to give to a loved one.
Juneteenth Programming Schedule
(Virtual) Tuning In To Juneteenth
Monday, June 6; 6 p.m. ET
Stephen Lewis, NMAAHC curator of music and the performing arts, will discuss the premier of the Juneteenth Playlist featuring the best of jazz, soul, rhythm and blues, gospel, classical and other genres. This program is free, but registration is required.
(Virtual) Public Program: Juneteenth Dishes to Taste and Savor
Monday, June 6; 6 p.m. ET
NMAAHC Curator Joanne Hyppolite and Sweet Home Café Executive Chef Ramin Coles will discuss how at-home audiences can design and cook a delicious Juneteenth Day menu—inspired by longtime honored recipes reconceptualized for today’s palate—for family and friends. This program is free, but registration is required.
(In Person and Virtual) Public Program: Texas Freedom Colonies
Saturday, June 11; noon to 1:30 p.m. ET
Andrea Roberts, Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin professor, will discuss her work researching, documenting, preserving and mapping ‘Freedom Colonies’—areas where African Americans started intentional communities between the years 1865 and 1935 during the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras in Texas. Through her work and experiences as a scholar, activist and descendant, Roberts sheds light on the histories of these communities and shares how to document and preserve community histories. This event will be held in the Oprah Winfrey Theater and will also be streamed on all NMAAAHC streaming platforms. This program is free, but registration is required.
(In Person) Public Program: Juneteenth: Watermelon & Red Birds—A Conversation with Nicole A. Taylor
Monday, June 13; 7 p.m.
Oprah Winfrey Theater
American writer and cookbook author Nicole A. Taylor, and Kevin Young, Andrew W. Mellon director of NMAAHC, will discuss Taylor’s latest work Watermelon & Red Birds, which includes documentation of late 19th-century Juneteenth celebrations, and the author’s recipe updates for 21st-century tastes. A short reception follows the program. Books will be available for sale and signing courtesy of Smithsonian Enterprises. This program is free, but registration is required.
(In Person) One Year Later: Juneteenth for all Americans
Wednesday, June 15; 7 p.m.
Kevin Young, Andrew W. Mellon Director of NMAAHC, moderates a panel of scholars as they discuss the historic and social complexity of Juneteenth. The conversation will explore the lessons that the holiday imparts, historically and currently, about social justice, democracy, community-building and cultivating climates of hope. Panelists include Imani Perry, Princeton University professor of African American studies and author of South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation; Hassan Jeffries, Ohio State University historian; and Rayshawn Ray, David M. Rubenstein fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. This program is free, but registration is required.
(In Person) Juneteenth Community Day
Sunday, June 19
Celebrate the history, art and culture of Juneteenth at NMAAHC with three wonderful community-day events. There will also be craft-making activities taking place from 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. All programs are free, but registration is required.
(In Person) Storytime: The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez
Monday, June 20; 11 a.m.
Acclaimed author Rio Cortez will read from her book “The ABCs of Black History.” Using rhyming couplets, Cortez shares uplifting stories with young readers about pivotal events in Black history. The storytime will also include an artmaking activity and book signing. This program is free, but registration is required.
(In Person and Virtual) Juneteenth Soundstage: Alphonso Horne and the Gotham Kings
Monday, June 20; 3 p.m. ET
Oprah Winfrey Theater + UStream
Two-time Grammy-nominated trumpeter Alphonso Horne and the Gotham Kings weave together the sounds of New Orleans to demonstrate the history of the trumpet and the story of jazz for an immersive jazz experience for all ages. The band has played at esteemed venues, including the Newport, Aspen and Caramoor jazz festivals;, Louis Armstrong House Museum; Jazz at Lincoln Center and many more. This program is free, but registration is required.
(In Person) History Alive—Juneteenth: A Soldier’s Story
Monday, June 20; 11:30, 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.
Visitors can learn how the United States Colored Troops came into being, what the Emancipation Proclamation really did, the significance of Juneteenth and how they affect people today. Living-history performances take place within the museum’s Slavery and Freedom Galleries and are suitable for learning and enjoyment by audiences ages 8 and up.