Commemorate & Celebrate Juneteenth With Videos, Activities, and Local Events

Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, is celebrated every year on June 19th.

After President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had became official January 1, 1863 and called for the immediate liberation of all enslaved people, it took nearly two and a half years for the news to finally reach Texas. On June 191865 the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas and finally delivered the news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. However, even following the announcement, or what is known as Order Number 3, there was still confusion and peril for many enslaved people.

Set against this uncertainty and violence, the newly “freed” black men and women of Texas and the Freedmen’s Bureau fought for what is now known as Juneteenth. Through grassroots efforts, they transformed June 19th from a day of unheeded military orders into Juneteenth, and the first annual celebration began one year later in 1866. In 2020, Juneteenth was officially designated as a state holiday in New York and in 2021 President Biden signed a law making Juneteenth the first new federal holiday in decades.

Check out the videos, activities and curated list of local events below to learn about the history and impact of Juneteenth and to celebrate it with your family today!

Jump to article sections:

Learn About Juneteenth

How Juneteenth (and Other Celebrations) Can Be Meaningful For Your Family

Grades PreK-3
What does it mean for us to celebrate Juneteenth? By looking more closely at all the cultural rituals and traditions that families honor we can find deeper purpose in each.

5 Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth With Your Family

Grades PreK-3
Now that Juneteenth is officially a federal holiday in the United States, it’s the perfect time to observe Juneteenth as a family. Here are five ways to celebrate Juneteenth together.

7 Books for Celebrating Juneteenth

Grades K-5
For families with young children, books can be a great start for important conversations about understanding the history and traditions of Juneteenth.

Juneteenth Jamboree History

Grades 9-12
From the long-running Austin PBS annual program Juneteenth Jamboree, this clip features historian Harrison Eppright as he traces a timeline starting with Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. It took several months for the news of the end of the Civil War to reach Texas. US Major General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Bay on June 19, 1865 to take control of the state and declare all slaves in Texas free under the Emancipation Proclamation – the first Juneteenth. While no longer slaves, African Americans continued to be denied citizens’ rights for the next 100 years.

The Emancipation Proclamation | Interactive Lesson

Grades 9-12
Assess how the Emancipation Proclamation expanded ideas of freedom and liberty, looking at the antislavery debate that led to the proclamation, the influences on Lincoln’s decision, and the provisions of the document. In this interactive lesson from WGBH, students develop a written argument in response to the question “In what ways did the Emancipation Proclamation expand ideas of freedom and liberty in America?” They gather evidence from videos featuring historian Ben Weber and from primary source documents, images, and artifacts.

Why Are Cookouts So Important For Black Joy? | Trial & Tribulation

Grades 9-12
Local voices of the black community in Minnesota explain the importance and power of moments of Black joy, from family cookouts and church barbecues to community celebrations such as St. Paul’s Rondo Days, to celebrating National Holidays like Juneteenth. What makes community gatherings so necessary for Black joy?

Local Events & Celebrations

Potsdam Juneteenth Celebration

The fourth annual Potsdam community-wide Juneteenth Celebration will be held on Saturday, June 17th, 4-8 PM, at Ives Park in Potsdam, New York. Open to the public, this free cultural event will feature historically relevant speakers, a catered heritage-rich meal, music, dancing, art, and a Black Is Beautiful Fashion Show.

Celebrating Juneteenth with the Strand

Join the Strand Center for the Arts in celebrating Juneteenth. This event is complete with good eats, family-friendly activities and art displays, local vendors and organizations, and live musical performances.

Colors of Freedom Tour: A North Country Juneteenth Celebration

Juneteenth is now a national and state holiday which celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. On June 17th at 9 AM, the “Colors of Freedom” tour will be a unique way for families and visitors alike to experience the struggles that took place locally. The tour will feature seven different stops with re-enactors, docents, and celebrations of the freedom spirit in Clinton and Essex counties. Beginning at the Strand Center Theatre, the event will involve existing museums, exhibits at historic locations, and original re-enactments. The charge will be $10 per person, $20 for a family pass, and preregistration is required.

Juneteenth at the John Brown Farm

Hosted by John Brown Lives, “Juneteenth at the John Brown Farm” will be held on Sunday, June 18th at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid. The event is free and open to all with live musical performances and a Black Lives Matter display.

Watch & Wonder Programs

Check out the Mountain Lake PBS Watch & Wonder block, weekdays from 1-3pm! In honor of Juneteenth, join us as we celebrate and learn about the history of this important holiday and Black culture in America with special programs in June.

Monday,June 19

1 PM: Abolition: The Friendship of Frederick Douglass and John Brown

Abolition: The Friendship of Frederick Douglass and John Brown is the story of two friends. John Brown – he whose “body lies a-mouldering in the grave” – who led the raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, a major stepping stone toward the War. And Frederick Douglass who was born a slave in Maryland, escaped to freedom at 20, and became an important voice in America. In this film, the bond and strife between these two men is explored in an intimate re-imagination of the era.

2 PM: Searching for Timbuctoo

Searching for Timbuctoo tells the little-known story of a Black settlement, established in the wilds of upstate New York, that brought together a group of ardent abolitionists willing to risk their fortunes, their families, and their futures to destroy slavery. Little did they know that by coming together, they would help tear the nation apart.

Wednesday, June 21

1 PM: Canfield Roots: Episode 1

Canfield Roots shares the history of some of the Black families who lived and thrived in a small rural town in Southern Ontario. It follows present-day descendants in Canada and the U.S. as they learn about their family history, share their early experiences, and fight to preserve the Street cemetery, now the focus of a restoration project. In the series’ first episode, we meet Bill Douglas, a native of Canfield for most of his life, who is surprised when local historians reveal his family’s role in Canfield’s history of Black ancestry.

1:30 PM: Canfield Roots: Episode 2

As Bill Douglas visits the BME Church Salem Chapel in St. Catharines to learn more about freedom seekers in Ontario his sister Betty Ann confronts her memories of Canfield. Outside the village an abandoned family cemetery containing the grave site of Harriet Tubman’s niece attracts the attention of local historians.

2 PM: Canfield Roots: Episode 3

On a cloudless February night in 1953, former Canfield resident Harry Lee was hung for murder in Hamilton, the last man to to be executed at that city’s notorious Barton Jail. Seventy years later, former residents of Canfield reflects on the impact of Lee’s hanging on the village community while Betty Ann Newman grapples with the memory of the man she called Uncle Harry.

2:30 PM: Canfield Roots: Episode 4

An estate sale in Houston, Texas leads a collector to research an artist with a connection to an abandoned family cemetery in Canfield. As more details rise to the surface, an ancestor of Harriet Tubman’s niece shares her family’s remarkable story and link to this cemetery as well.

Thursday,June 22

1 PM: Canfield Roots: Episode 5

Frustrated over delays, a group of residents and descendants meet to discuss what to do over an abandoned family cemetery in Canfield, the final resting place of freedom seekers who settled in Canada in the mid-1800s.

1:30 PM: Canfield Roots: Episode 6

As descendants of freedom seekers gather at an abandoned family cemetery to mark Emancipation Day, they reflect on the struggles and successes of their ancestors. In Spokane, Washington Betty Ann Newman shares the stories and photos of her family in Canfield with her grandchildren.

2 PM: Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Fronts

Explore the complex history of Black Americans who enlisted in the U.S. military as a path to citizenship, a livelihood and respect, and how they fought in military conflicts abroad and civil rights struggles at home.

Friday,June 23

1 PM: Walk Together Children: The 150th Anniversary of the Fisk Jubilee Singers

In Walk Together Children: The 150th Anniversary of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Dr. Paul T. Kwami and the current singers explore the stories of the world-renowned ensemble’s original nine members and reflect on their roles as students and preservers of the group’s legacy. Directed by Jon Royal in collaboration with Dr. Kwami, the performance film is produced by Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

2 PM: Fat Boy: The Billy Stewart Story

The documentary explores the journey of the singer from his days as a piano player to a famous R&B balladeer. His style of singing was untouchable as he mastered word doubling and scatting throughout his songs and performances. His original hits include “I Do Love You” and his masterful remake of the Gershwin tune “Summertime”.