On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, bringing life-changing news to people living in slavery there: the Confederacy had fallen, and all enslaved people were now free. That day, June 19, would become known as Juneteenth, a day of celebration and reflection for Black Americans and people of all races across the country.
Last year, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a measure to designate the historic day a state holiday, and on Tuesday, the United States Senate passed a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Since the Massachusetts measure didn’t go into effect until July of 2020, this Monday will be the first time the state officially celebrates the holiday, and many groups are planning to go all-out.
The main event in Boston will be the annual celebration at Franklin Park, which typically includes food, music and other summer fun. If you’re looking to join in the celebration and reflection, here are 10 additional events to check out around Boston.
Friday: One Night in Boston
Head to the JazzUrbane Cafe in Nubian Square to kick-off the celebration with One Night in Boston, organized by King Boston. Featuring a film premiere and musical performances from groups like Boston’s Children's Chorus and Project STEP, this free event will open a weekend of festivities.
Friday: Miss Juneteenth Film Screening
If you’re looking for a more low-key way to get into the festivities, stop by the Loring Greenough House lawn in Jamaica Plain to catch a screening of “Miss Juneteenth.” Tickets are $5 for Loring Greenough House members and $7 for non-members.
If you’re hoping to learn more about the history of African worship and slavery in America, you can’t miss the Jubilee on Juneteenth. The Museum of Fine Arts, in partnership with New Roots AME Church, is offering a 30-minute outdoor interactive exhibit showing the various ways enslaved Africans “subverted dominant practices of worship to connect with God, community, and nature.”
Saturday: The Launch Pop-up Shop and Afterparty
On Saturday, District Hall will play host to pop-up shops and musical performances from Boston-based DJs and performers. The pop-up shop will run from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and those who want to keep the party going can stick around for the an afterparty, which will start at 8 p.m. and run through 1 a.m.
Saturday: Juneteenth Paint Party
Get creative with the Dorchester Art Project! Members of the community-driven art space will lead a step-by-step workshop on Saturday from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 and include a canvas, brushes and paints.
Saturday: Freedom Fête
If you’re still a little wary of crowds and in-person get-togethers, don’t worry, you can still get into the spirit with Freedom Fête, a virtual dance party featuring music that celebrates the beauty and contributions of the African Diaspora. The online event is free, though donations to Boston Ujima Project, For the Gworls, and Activation Residency -- three grassroots organizations empowering brown and Black women and trans people -- are encouraged.
Saturday: Juneteenth Boston: Black Joy
Mass. Peace Action will host a double-header on Saturday, starting off at noon with featured speakers at Copley Square, including State Rep. Nika Elugardo, State Rep. Gloria Fox and former City Councilor Charles Yancey. At 3 p.m., the organization will move to Carson Beach in South Boston for food, music and outdoor fun.
Saturday: Funk the Police: Juneteenth Edition
For a dose of comedy, poetry and spoken word, Ronan Park in Dorchester is the place to be. From 5 to 8 p.m., you can listen to performers’ calls to action and help raise money for Massachusetts families impacted by police violence.
Saturday: Juneteenth Emancipation Observance
For those looking to learn more about the holiday and its history, try the virtual Juneteenth Emancipation Observance. Organized by Boston's Juneteenth Committee and the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, this free online event will include historical readings, musical performances and a keynote speech from a Boston community leader.
Saturday: MFA Community Celebration
If you can't choose just one way to celebrate, The Museum of Fine Arts is offering an array of events all day long. From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., you can make art, listen to live music or catch a documentary all for free on the MFA’s outdoor campus.
Saturday - Tuesday: Juneteenth: Opera in the Key of Freedom
The North End Music and Performing Arts Center NEMPAC will kick off its 10th season with "Juneteenth: Opera in the Key of Freedom" at the African Meeting House on Boston’s Black Heritage Trail. The show will feature a variety of music from Black composers across three centuries and will be streamed online for free.