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How to celebrate Juneteenth in the D.C. area

The African American Civil War Memorial Museum will hold a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial’s “Spirit of Freedom” statue on June 20. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)
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Last year, Congress voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. But Juneteenth, which commemorates the day in June 1865 when enslaved people in Texas learned they were free, 2 ½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, has long been celebrated in the Washington area, with events at museums and cultural centers and lower-key community gatherings in public parks.

Juneteenth is officially observed on June 20 this year, but festivities will be held throughout the weekend.

The joy of Juneteenth: America’s long and uneven march from slavery to freedom

June 16

Live at the Library: Celebrate Juneteenth at the Library of Congress: The Library of Congress’s after-hours programming turns to Juneteenth this week, with a performance by the outstanding South Carolina band Ranky Tanky, whose Grammy-winning sound draws on funk, jazz and call-and-response gospel, all steeped in the Lowcountry’s Gullah culture. In addition to a preconcert discussion, the evening includes a display of Juneteenth- and emancipation-related items from the library’s collection, access to all exhibits, and drinks and snacks in the Great Hall. While admission to Live at the Library requires a free timed-entry pass, admission to the concert requires an additional ticket, which is also free. 5 to 8 p.m. loc.gov/events. Free.

June 17-19

Juneteenth weekend in the city of Bowie: A three-day celebration begins with a screening of “Hidden Figures” on Friday night at Allen Pond Park. Saturday’s Juneteenth Jubilee at Allen Pond Park, presented by the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts, incorporates dance, poetry, live music and African drumming. The series wraps up Sunday with a morning bike ride; a Father’s Day afternoon party with music, vendors, games, a moon bounce and food; and a sunset concert starring the Proverbs reggae band. All events are free; the bike ride requires advance registration. cityofbowie.org/juneteenth.

June 18

Juneteenth: Journey to Freedom at BlackRock Center for the Arts: Montgomery County’s 25th annual Juneteenth celebration is a 12-hour, family-friendly festival that covers all the bases, from modern dance performances to a historical display from the Sandy Spring Slave Museum. Live music includes jazz and Caribbean ensembles, go-go legends Rare Essence, and an Earth, Wind and Fire tribute band. A section for film and poetry features screenings of “Black Panther” and “Soul.” There are games, food trucks, vendors, books and craft activities, plus a “Trail of Knowledge” passport for families to complete. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. blackrockcenter.org. Free.

Annapolis Juneteenth Celebration: In 2021, the inaugural Juneteenth parade through Annapolis involved more than 2,000 participants, including floats, school marching bands and dancers. This year, organizers are planning to go even bigger. The parade sets off from the City Dock, passing the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial, and ends at the Bates Athletic Complex on Spa Road. The festival, which begins at 2 p.m., includes two stages of entertainment: One focuses on R&B, headlined by the Chuck Brown Band and Avery Sunshine, and the Gospel Stage includes Pastor Mike Jr. and Beverly Crawford, backed by the Juneteenth Choir. The day ends with fireworks. Parking is available at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, with free shuttles to the festival. Noon to 9 p.m. theannapolisjuneteenth.org. Free.

Juneteenth at Watkins Regional Park: Organized by the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation, this party includes music from Kindred the Family Soul, Sugar Bear and E.U., and a tribute to Maze; dance performances by Coyaba Dance Theater and the Taratibu Youth Association; art and history displays; poetry; arts and crafts activities; vendors; and a scavenger hunt. Noon to 5 p.m. pgparks.com/Juneteenth. Free.

Juneteenth Celebration at Frying Pan Farm Park: The Fairfax County park, which depicts farm life in the early 20th century, marks Juneteenth with storytellers, live music, crafts and food trucks. Reservations are required, and the 11 a.m. time slot is already full. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. fairfaxcounty.gov/parks. Free.

Sounds of Africa at the National Museum of African Art: Update: This concert has been postponed until July 16 due to road closures for the Something in the Water festival. The first in a series of outdoor summer concerts in the Enid A. Haupt Garden, this concert stars Eme & Heteru, featuring Chelsey Green, performing “songs of liberation” to mark Juneteenth. 6:30 to 10 p.m. africa.si.edu. Free.

June 18-20

Juneteenth at the National Archives: The two most important documents relating to Juneteenth are the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that, as of Jan. 1, 1863, “all persons held as slaves” within the Confederate States of America “are, and henceforward shall be free,” and General Order No. 3, issued by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston, Tex., on June 19, 1865, which announced, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” The National Archives holds original copies of both and is putting them on display from June 18 to 20, with the museum staying open until 7 p.m. all three days. A special family day on Saturday features arts and crafts and other activities from 1 to 3 p.m., while an online program Friday at 7 p.m. includes a discussion with historians and live music. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. archives.gov. Free.

‘Juneteenth: A Time of Reflection and Rejoicing’ in Alexandria: Alexandria’s Juneteenth celebrations take place over three days. Saturday is reserved for the little ones, with a story time for ages 3 to 6 at the Charles Beatley Jr. Central Library, followed by a Juneteenth Jubilee with songs, stories and activities from the engaging children’s entertainer Culture Queen. On Sunday afternoon, the Jubilee Voices perform African American spirituals and folk songs and tell stories of freedom and the Underground Railroad at the city’s Market Square. Monday brings the grand opening of the Freedom House Museum on Duke Street. Once the headquarters of the country’s largest slave traders and later a Civil War prison, the National Historic Landmark was purchased by Alexandria in 2020 and now houses three floors of exhibits examining Black history in Virginia and America. The museum is open from 1 to 5:30 p.m., with an opening ceremony at 6 p.m. at the nearby Shiloh Baptist Worship Center. alexandriava.gov/Museums. Admission to most events is free; museum entry $5 for adults, $3 for ages 5 to 12, and free for Alexandria residents.

June 18-25

‘Liberty Amendments’ celebration: The town of Vienna is once again using Juneteenth as the beginning of a month-long celebration of the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments, which it refers to as the “liberty amendments.” The commemoration of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, runs from June 18-25 and includes an exhibit at the Freeman Store and Museum and self-guided walking tours of historic African American sites. A kickoff event Saturday includes African dancing and drumming; an Earth, Wind and Fire cover band; and a car show. Tuesday brings a story time, and Wednesday features a talk with local blues musician Daryl Davis, who has written a book about his efforts to discuss race with members of the Ku Klux Klan. The week ends with a festival on the town green with kids’ performers, games and activities. Locations and times vary. viennava.gov. Free.

June 19

The Foods of Juneteenth at the National Arboretum’s Washington Youth Garden: Learn about crops from the African diaspora — especially ones that grow well in the D.C. area — at this family-friendly, food-focused event organized by the Friends of the National Arboretum. Chef Daoud Harris leads “garden-to-table” cooking demonstrations, and FONA offers self-guided tours of the gardens and their bounty. Noon to 2 p.m. fona.org. Free; donations requested.

June 20

Juneteenth Community Day at the National Museum of African American History and Culture: The African American Museum on the Mall is an obvious place to celebrate Juneteenth, but it’s going to be tough to do so in person if you haven’t already made plans. The museum’s free entry tickets are claimed a month in advance, so the only option is to log on at 8:15 a.m. and try to grab a limited number of same-day passes. Those who are successful can see the original copy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech from the 1963 March on Washington (on display in the “A Changing America” exhibition) as well as living history experiences explaining Juneteenth and the United States Colored Troops, plus family arts and crafts activities. A performance by New Orleans jazz artists Alphonso Horne and the Gotham Kings will be held in the Oprah Winfrey Theater at 3 p.m. — free, but reservations are required — and will be streamed online through the museum’s website for those who didn’t get tickets. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. nmaahc.si.edu. Free.

Celebration of Juneteenth at the African-American Civil War Memorial: The African American Civil War Memorial Museum holds a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial’s “Spirit of Freedom” statue, followed by a living history program on the plaza. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. afroamcivilwar.org. Free.

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