Juneteenth, also recognized as Freedom Day, honors the date that the last group of enslaved African Americans were freed in Galveston, Texas in 1865—more than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation Order, which took effect on Jan. 1, 1863.
In 2020, Governor Ralph Northam made Juneteenth an official state holiday. This week, the Senate and the House passed a resolution establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a U.S. holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
Coastal Virginia is celebrating Juneteenth with events, speaker series, tours and virtual offerings. Unless otherwise noted, all events take place on Saturday, June 19.
Annual Juneteenth Cultural Heritage Festival
The Juneteenth Coalition presents the 22nd annual Juneteenth Celebration on the Eastern Shore, from noon–4 p.m. on Main Street in Exmore. Celebrate African American freedom and achievement, while emphasizing the importance of the deep belief in liberty and equality for all people.
Newport News celebrates Juneteenth all week long, beginning Saturday, June 12, with virtual and in-person activities. Students can enter essay, spoken word and poster contests. There will also be drive-thru giveaways, concerts, stories, speakers and a Freedom Festival on June 19.
Juneteenth Solstice Festival – Outdoor Block Party
Smartmouth Brewing’s Norfolk location will host a free, outdoor festival for all ages featuring Black-owned vendors, an art market, live music and pop-up food market with POC-owned restaurants, chefs and food trucks.
Juneteenth Celebration at Selden Market
Selden Market is celebrating the freedoms, achievements and culture of the African American community with a day of music, food, workshops, stories and a market full of Black-owned businesses to support and connect with.
Waterways to Freedom Tour
Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, author of “Waterways to Freedom,” will lead a walking tour of Underground Railroad sites in downtown Norfolk.
Family Day: A Juneteenth Celebration
Bring the whole family to the Chrysler Museum of Art to honor African Americans, past and present, who fought for freedom. Learn the history of Juneteenth during performances by the Virginia African American Cultural Center. There will also be live outdoor music, craft activities and a scavenger hunt.
History Speaks: Juneteenth and the Struggle for Freedom
On Sunday, June 20, the Chrysler Museum of Art will explore the history of Juneteenth and what it might have meant for the enslaved people at the Moses Myers House. Meet at the historic home to hear stories and learn about the contributions of enslaved people to life in Norfolk at the time.
#ThirdThursday Public Art Walk: Portraits From a Place of Grace
On Thursday, June 17, visit the future home of the Virginia African American Cultural Center at Lake Edwards Park. “Portraits from a Place of Grace,” work by Richard Hollant, highlights residents from Virginia Beach’s 14 historically African American neighborhoods.
Juneteenth Celebration at Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg will feature special programming to commemorate the holiday, starting with a Juneteenth Opening Ceremony on Market Square. Hampton University professor Robert Watson will give a keynote address on the meaning of Juneteenth. There will also be performances of the play “Loquacious Lucy,” live presentations of oral history, a Juneteenth Feast with culinary expert Michael Twitty and much more.
Commemorate Juneteenth at Jamestown Settlement
Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Executive Director Christy S. Coleman will lead Juneteenth events at Jamestown Settlement, offering opening and closing remarks. This 90-minute, limited-capacity program will feature performance, music and dance, and more. Visitors will hear stories of African Americans from three centuries who fought for freedom.
Williamsburg Live featuring Leyla McCalla
Leyla McCalla will perform on the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. The bilingual multi-instrumentalist and singer draws inspiration from her Haitian heritage, living in New Orleans and growing up on the streets of Brooklyn to create a distinctive sound.
Juneteenth: Emancipation and Celebration
Fragments of Freedom Theatre Productions presents “Juneteenth: Emancipation and Celebration through Spoken Word Theatre and Music,” featuring the talents of spoken word artists and award-winning soul/R&B artist K’bana Blaq. This will be live streamed on the Hampton History Museum’s Facebook page on Wednesday, June 16 at 7 p.m.
Juneteenth Celebration at the College of William & Mary
William & Mary will have a virtual celebration program begin a 2 p.m. The program includes a performance of “Evolution of a Black Girl: From The Slave House to the White House” by actress Morgan McCoy, music by The Gonzales Sisters, The Three Tenors and Matthew Willard, a reading of the names of enslaved people by William & Mary, student artwork and more.
CW Conversation: Juneteenth
Colonial Williamsburg presents “CW Conversation: Juneteenth,” the sixth program in its new, monthly virtual conversation series “US: Past, Present, Future.” The virtual series explores the intersection of current events, our shared history, and the enduring promises of America.