From Thursday through this weekend, there are Juneteenth events going on across Virginia.
VIRGINIA BEACH – Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862. However, it took two and a half more years for that order to be enforced across the country. As Union soldiers advanced through the South, they enforced and in many cases informed people for the first time about the change. Such was the case on June 19, 1865, the date we recognize now as Juneteenth.
Texas hadn’t seen major fighting during the Civil War, and as a result, there weren’t many Union soldiers on hand to enforce the new order. After Lincoln’s proclamation, many slaveholders moved there and pretended like nothing changed. That ended in 1865. On June 19 of that year, Union Army general Gordon Granger arrived to take control of Texas.
He landed in Galveston and read General Order No. 3, making it clear all enslaved people were now free.
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” the order states. “This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection therefore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”
Becoming a State and Federal Holiday
The announcement sparked celebrations throughout the area and over the decades after, Juneteenth became an unofficial holiday in many places. Texas made it an official state holiday in 1980. Several other states followed after. For Virginia, that happened in 2020, as Gov. Ralph Northam issued an order of his own.
It soon could become a federal holiday as well. The US Senate unanimously passed a bill on June 15 to make that happen. If it’s approved by the House as expected, Juneteenth would become the 12th official federal holiday.
Here in Virginia, celebrations will take place over the next few days across the Commonwealth. That includes events for all levels of participation—from those who prefer celebrating with others to those seeking a home-based commemoration.
Thursday, June 17
When: 4-6 p.m.
Where: 704 Hampshire Ln., Virginia Beach
When: 5 p.m.
What: A virtual program featuring performances of melodic slave music which interprets the experience of hearing about President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
When: 6 p.m.
What: A virtual tour of the home of J. Thomas Newsome, a Black attorney, journalist, churchman, and civic leader. The presentation includes a story-time for children about slavery and Juneteenth.
Friday, June 18
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Thoroughgood House, 1636 Parish Rd, Virginia Beach
What: Free Juneteenth tour at one of the oldest surviving colonial homes in Virginia Beach.
When: 7 p.m.
What: “A Journey to Freedom: A Juneteenth Production” is a screening of an original theatrical Juneteenth production. *Registration required
Saturday, June 19
When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Pocahontas State Park, 10301 State Park Rd., Chesterfield
What: The Juneteenth in the Park celebration starts at 8 a.m. with the five-mile Hidden Histories Hike. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., you can also take a Pop Up StoryWalk. Follow the pages of a Juneteenth storybook as you explore a 1-mile, stroller-friendly trail at your own pace. Storytelling with Sheila Arnold takes place at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m, the event features food trucks, entertainment, vendors and self-guided activities.
When: 9 a.m.
Where: Loudoun County Courthouse lawn, 18 East Market St., Leesburg
What: A Juneteenth march begins at the local courthouse and culminates with a ceremony at the Orion Anderson Lynching Memorial. The event also features music, food and goods from Black vendors.
When: 9 a.m.
Where: The ViBe Creative District, located near 611 18th St., Virginia Beach
When: 9:30 a.m.
Where: 500 E. Main St., Norfolk
What: The Waterways of Freedom walking tour meanders along the Elizabeth River. Dr. Cassandra Newby Alexander, author of “Waterways to Freedom,” will take participants through the history of Norfolk’s waterfront and its ties to slavery. The walk will take 1.5 hours. *Registration required.
When: 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.
Where: James Madison’s Montpelier, 11350 Constitution Hwy, Montpelier Station
What: The Montpelier Enslaved Community Walking Tours feature three specialized tours centered around the enslaved community at Montpelier and their journey to freedom. *Free for Orange County residents and Montpelier descendants, property pass required for all other visitors.
When: 10 a.m.
Where: Warren G. Lineberry Park in downtown Floyd, 284 S Locust St, Floyd.
What: The town of Floyd will hold a Juneteenth celebration, with music by Jerome Claytor and A Touch of Class.
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Newport News Public Library, 110 Main St., Newport News
What: The new “Until Freedom Comes: The African American Experience in Newport News” exhibit chronicles the history of African Americans in the city from 1623 to present day. The unveiling event also features guest speakers and live music.
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Jeter Watson Park, 524 East Pine Street, Covington
What: The Alleghany Highlands NAACP will host a Juneteenth Freedom Day celebration, with history lessons, guest speakers, drumline, spiritual music, food and children’s activities.
When: Noon to 7 p.m.
Where: From noon to 4 p.m. at Hopkin’s Green and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Washington Street between South Jefferson Street and South Main Street in Lexington.
What: There will be an art show, Kuumba Dance ensembles, West African drum and dance performances, plus more live music to celebrate Juneteenth.
Where: New Beech Grove Baptist Church, 361 Beechmont Dr., Newport News
What: The Andrew Shannon FEEDING 5000 (TM) Juneteenth Father’s Day Weekend Celebration features food, “celebrity servers” and musical entertainment. The event also includes free diabetic eye screenings, courtesy of Sight Forever and free COVID-19 PCR testing and Pfizer Vaccines, courtesy of Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute. *Guests must adhere to social distancing guidelines and wear face masks.
When: Noon to 3 p.m.
Where: Freedom Park, 5337 Centerville Rd., Williamsburg
What: James City Parks and Recreation hosts a Freedom Stories event, featuring Williamsburg native Dylan “The Storyteller” Pritchett and other members of Virginia Black Storytellers, telling stories about the lives of Black Americans. The park, once a free Black settlement, will feature crafting opportunities for kids, music and food available for purchase. Admission is free to the public.
When: Noon to 4 p.m.
What: The Freedom Festival culminates the city’s week-long Juneteenth celebration and includes live entertainment, food and craft vendors, exhibitors, children’s pony rides, and glitter tattoos. Vendors will sell their products and exhibitors will share the services and opportunities that are available to residents in the community.
When: Noon to 6 p.m.
Where: Eureka Park, 1529 Carroll Ave NW, Roanoke
What: The Juneteenth Family Reunion will include entertainment, food, drinks, history lessons and activities.
When: Noon to 10:30 p.m.
Where: Contemporary Arts Network, 9601 Warwick Blvd., Newport News
What: A Juneteenth Block Party featuring live musical performances, an outdoor boxing showcase in collaboration with Gladiator School Boxing, Buy Black Pop-Up vendors, Juneteenth Next Up at the CAN, opening of the CANTemporaries collaborative exhibition.
When: 1 p.m.
Where: Bloomberg Asphalt Art Project, 1139 E. Charlotte St., Tidewater Gardens
What: “The Gathering Place” mural features images that highlight the history of double-dutch, flowers gathered in community, designs from African American quilts and directional symbols from the Underground Railroad. The street mural—the work of resident volunteers and local artist Danettea Evans—incorporates design techniques that promote pedestrian safety. The event includes a dedication featuring an original poem by Ayana Askew, Hampton Roads Youth Poet Laureate, and a double-dutch showcase celebration with free food, the Norfolk Police Department “Copsicle,” face painting, a photo booth, and music.
When: 2 p.m.
Where: Jamestown Settlement, 2110 Jamestown Rd., Route 31 S., Williamsburg
What: A thought-provoking 90-minute program of performance, music and dance. Visitors will encounter stories of Black Americans from three centuries who fought against laws until freedom came. *Tickets required
When: 2:30 p.m.
Where: Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, 201 Market St., Virginia Beach
What: “Hidden History: The Banjo,” a 60-minute performance that includes an array of music, dance, and spoken-word poetry from local artists.
When: 4:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: Virginia Union University’s Hovey Field, 1500 N Lombardy St., Richmond
What: The Hezekiah Walker Center for Gospel Music presents “Sounds of Freedom,” which includes 10 choirs from the surrounding area. Black-owned vendors will provide food and beverages.