Celebrate the historical importance and cultural significance of Juneteenth around Champaign-Urbana
Head out with your family to celebrate Juneteenth, which commemorates emancipation in the U.S.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is an annual holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It marks June 19, 1865, the day a group of enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, finally learned that they were set free — almost two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth was first celebrated in Texas on June 19, 1866. The day is also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day, but Juneteenth is the most commonly used name. For many years, the holiday has been observed primarily in the Black community.
Juneteenth over the years
Public Juneteenth celebrations in Champaign-Urbana are nothing new. In 2005, the Champaign Park District, Champaign Public Library, and others presented one of the first broad civic Juneteenth celebrations, bringing recognition of Juneteenth to the forefront for the Champaign-Urbana area community.
In June 2020, amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racism following the death of George Floyd, the holiday received unprecedented attention from people of all races. Many corporations announced they would make Juneteenth a paid holiday, while others made the day about education. Petitions have called for the federal government to make Juneteenth a national holiday or day of observance.
Juneteenth in 2021
In the spring 2021 session, Illinois lawmakers passed legislation that will make Juneteenth a state holiday next year. At publishing time, legislation in Washington, D.C. is moving through Congress and could possibly be passed and signed in time to make Juneteenth a federal holiday this year.
In 2021, some Champaign-Urbana community celebrations will stay virtual, while other in-person events are scheduled already (and more may materialize).
Celebrated annually on June 19, Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year. How to celebrate Juneteenth without going to a “special” event:
- Support Black-owned businesses, including restaurants, retailers, service providers, and others.
- Some people eat traditional Black Southern cuisine like fried chicken, collard greens and cornbread. (Don’t want to cook? Order from a Black-owned restaurant, such as Neil Street Blues or Wood N’ Hog.)
- Incorporate red-colored foods and drinks in your celebration, and educate your family and friends why with this article. These could include strawberry soda and red velvet cake.
- June is also Black Music Month. Black musicians traverse multiple genres — find a playlist on your favorite streaming service.
- Share this holiday with your children through books, several listed here.
- If you prefer to watch a video about Juneteenth with your family, this website details three videos about Juneteenth for kids.
Know of a family friendly Juneteenth event in Champaign-Urbana that we don’t have on our list? Take a moment to submit it for consideration on our event calendar now.No Events