Why Celebrate Juneteenth?

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The name comes from the words “June” and “nineteenth,” which marks the day federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to gain control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed in 1865, two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The first official Juneteenth celebration started on June 19, 1866. Newly freed African Americans held prayer meetings, sang spirituals, and wore new clothes to commemorate their freedom. These celebrations quickly spread across the United States but were not officially acknowledged until 2021, when President Joe Biden formally made Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Today, Juneteenth is celebrated through religious services, parades, educational events, family gatherings, picnics, food, music, and fun festivals.

To learn more about Juneteenth, read this month’s blog post, “Why Celebrate Juneteenth?: An Exploration of the Historical Journey to Freedom for African Americans,” by The Center’s Director of Education, Nicole Moore.

Juneteenth Programs & Events

Jubilee: A Juneteenth Celebration 

Join The Center for a day of engagement to celebrate Juneteenth through music, history, and culture. This program explores the history of Juneteenth and the new traditions being created in honor of this joyous occasion. Juneteenth is the celebration of the emancipation of people who were enslaved in America, and the continued celebration and liberation throughout time. Stop by to enjoy music inspired by this history, immerse yourself in the culture of Juneteenth through performances and find a new piece of your tradition. See below for a list of activities happening at The Center during Juneteenth weekend.

  • “Free At Last” Immersive Performance

Join performers in the March on Washington Exhibition for an immersive performance outlining the successes of emancipation and the civil rights movement as they reflect and foresee how far we’ve come and how far we must go. 

Saturday, June 18: 11 am, 12 pm- Centennial, 2 pm, 3 pm, 4 pm

Sunday, June 19: 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm

  • History of Music

Join historical interpreter outside on our lower level for a brief presentation which explores the history of spirituals and African instruments, in which guests will get the opportunity to play.

Saturday, June 18: 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm, 3:30 pm, 4:30 pm

Sunday, June 19: 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm, 3:30 pm

  • Juneteenth Celebration with DJ Sed

DJ Sed: Will play celebratory music as we pay homage to the jubilee of the day in which enslaved people were fully emancipated. Georgia Pacific Plaza *in the event of inclement weather—Glenn* 

Children can also make their own Juneteenth buttons and bracelets, record their thoughts on Juneteenth in writing, and receive a free book! All activities will take place in the third-floor mezzanine and will be staffed by Volunteers and Gallery Assistants.

Click here to learn more about Juneteenth celebrations happening around Atlanta!

Celebrate with music and download our Spotify & Apple Music playlists.

Educational Resources