Juneteenth

A Celebration of Resilience

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Juneteenth is a time to celebrate, gather as a family, reflect on the past and look to the future. The National Museum of African American History and Culture invites you to engage in your history and discover ways to celebrate this holiday.

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We will begin this celebration with a rendition of the Negro National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

Rochelle Rice sings "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

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According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was written as a poem by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) and then set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) in 1899. It was first performed in public in the Johnsons’ hometown of Jacksonville, Florida as part of a celebration of Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12, 1900 by a choir of 500 schoolchildren at the segregated Stanton School, where James Weldon Johnson was principal.

James Weldon Johnson, 17 Jun 1871 - 27 Jun 1938

A drawing of James Weldon Johnson by Winold Reiss.

James Weldon Johnson was a Renaissance man: successful Broadway lyricist, poet, novelist, diplomat, and a key figure in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1900 he collaborated with his brother John to produce "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a song that later acquired the subtitle of the "Negro National Anthem." 

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Lawrence A. Fleischman and Howard Garfinkle with a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

What is Juneteenth?

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas. He informed the enslaved African Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. This momentous occasion has been celebrated as Juneteeth -- a combination of June and 19 -- for over 150 years.

Juneteenth celebration in 1900 at Eastwoods Park.
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The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth

Juneteenth is a monumental yet often overlooked event in our nation’s history. On June 19, 1865, enslaved African Americans in Galveston Bay, Texas, were notified by Union troops they, along with all other enslaved black people in the state, were free by executive decree.
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Freedom's Promise

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Lonnie G. Bunch III, Secretary of the Smithsonian and Founding Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, speaks about the Emancipation Proclamation artifact in the Slavery to Freedom Gallery.

Historical Significance

Kelly E. Navies, Oral Historian for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, talks about the history and significance of Juneteenth. She also shares her family's tradition of celebrating of the holiday.

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Find Your Ancestors

This 30-minute session focuses on how to research African American family history beyond 1870 into the era of slavery. We review a variety of research methods, record types and case studies from Virginia and Alabama.

 "Juneteenth Community Genealogy: Finding Enslaved Ancestors"  
Presented by the Robert F. Smith Explore Your Family History Center

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Search the Records of the Freedman’s Bureau

Initiative

The Freedmen's Bureau Records

The Museum is focusing attention on the post-Civil War transition of enslaved people to freedom by making the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau accessible online.
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Carte-de-visite of a woman with a young boy

Carte-de-visite of a woman with a young boy.

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Linda and Artis Cason

Listen to an African American Folk Tale

Listen to the African American Folk Tale “Tops and Bottoms” as retold by acclaimed storyteller, Diane Macklin, whose work inspires hope, peace and justice.

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A Juneteenth Feast

Breaking bread with loved ones is the culmination of any event, and Juneteenth is no different. Here are some ideas for your Juneteenth feast.

Photo of a group of people having a picnic ca. 1920

Photo of a group of people having a picnic ca. 1920

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Jennifer Cain Bohrnstedt

I spoke with my grandma to get a sense the ideal Juneteenth picnic menu. My grandmother drew on her memories as a child and June picnics that her church and community group have every year. She stated the menu should consist of easily prepared foods that can sit outside for an extended period without going bad such as salads and pickled side dishes. She emphasized fruits, mainly watermelon and peaches. Lastly, she stated that June is a good time for produce because there are a lot of fruits and vegetables that are coming in for the summer season.

Leslie Walker Manager of Social Justice and Scholarly Programs (NMAAHC)

Based on his grandmother’s memories, Leslie recommends a summer picnic that includes: 

  • Hickory-smoked chicken 
  • Fried green tomatoes 
  • Red beans and rice  
  • Coleslaw 
  • Peach Cobbler

The "Sweet Home Café Cookbook" features a Juneteenth menu. These selected recipes reflect the holiday’s Texas roots.

Barbequed Beef Brisket Sandwich
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Barbequed Beef Brisket Sandwich

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Stewed Tomatoes and Okra
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Stewed Tomatoes and Okra

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High Mesa Peach and Blackberry Cobbler
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High Mesa Peach and Blackberry Cobbler

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FAMILY FUN

Make A Flag for Juneteenth!  

What is a flag? 

  • A flag is usually a rectangle with a special design and colors. Flags can be a symbol, tell a story, and be used to celebrate special occasions. 

Your job:

  • Design a flag for you and your family to use to celebrate Juneteenth! 

 

Click the button below for instructions.

Juneteenth Flag Activity

"Juneteenth: A Celebration of Resilience" has been generously supported by The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.