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 now 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.
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 began circulating to make Juneteenth a national holiday or day of observance.
During the spring 2021 session, Illinois lawmakers passed legislation that makes Juneteenth a state holiday starting in 2022. At the national level, President Biden signed the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act” into law on June 17, 2021, recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
Juneteenth deals in nearby cities
Some large cultural institutions offer free admission or other special deals on holidays with historical significance, and it looks like a trend is beginning for such deals to be offered on Juneteenth now that more families may be able to take advantage of having a holiday from work. A brief look around our region reveals an assortment of special Juneteenth deals at museums and other attractions. (Note that these admission deals may or may not be related to Juneteenth content except where noted; Juneteenth observances in these cities are too numerous to list here.) As always, check before you go to see if advance reservations are required.
- Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis Free admission on June 19 to all visitors; admission will also be free to the Butterfly House and the Shaw Nature Reserve
- Field Museum, Chicago Free admission to Illinois residents on Monday, June 20
- Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis Free admission on Saturday, June 18, featuring the Juneteenth and Jazz Community Celebration.
- Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, Indianapolis and various locations: Free admission on Saturday, June 18.
- Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield The library (not the museum) will be displaying its signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation on various dates in June. Viewing is free.
Juneteenth in Champaign-Urbana
A number of events are planned for Juneteenth in Champaign-Urbana this year. Celebrated annually on June 19, Juneteenth falls on a Sunday this year. The public holiday date is Monday, June 20, 2022 (except for University of Illinois employees, who inexplicably have a holiday this year on Friday, June 17).
We have a few ideas for 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.
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Illinois Libraries Present: A Conversation with Kwame Alexander | Zoom event | Registration Required
Join the Illinois Libraries on Zoom for an evening of inspiration and conversation with best-selling and award-winning children’s and young adult author and poet, Kwame Alexander, author of the Newbery Award winning book, The Crossover, Newbery Honor/Caldecott Medal winning book, The Undefeated, and most recently, An American Story. Kwame will…read more…
Saturday, February 18, 2023
2:00 pm - 4:30 pm
$7.00 Admission: Tickets Available Online or at the Ticket Office A special presentation of The Arthouse Experience Film Series. Presented by Illinois Public Media, this exciting series brings the very best of recent art films and documentaries to the Virginia Theatre. LET THE LITTLE LIGHT SHINE (2022) Rated G 86 Min Illinois Public…read more…
Sunday, February 19, 2023
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
A special live music and spoken-word performance for Black History Month. Head to the Urbana Library for a special music-centered event for Black History Month. The performance features Afro D & Global Soundwaves, a socially-conscious hip hop/jazz/funk band based in Champaign, Illinois. The band makes soulful music designed to be…read more…
Saturday, February 25, 2023
10:00 am - 11:00 am
Studio Theatre 10-year-old Jabari loves to paint. And through these paintings, he escapes the turbulent world around him and the reality of a friend hurt by police violence. In his dreams, he meets children and young people from the Civil Rights Era, including Ruby Bridges, Claudette Colvin, and others, who…read more…
11:00 am - 4:00 pm
Students in grades 3 to 5 can celebrate Black History Month by challenging their book knowledge in Champaign Public Library's 18th annual Battle of the Books. Find copies of the required books at the Douglass Branch and Main Library. Every participant will receive a prize book. Teams can have up…read more…