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Recognizing and Celebrating Black Americans on Juneteenth

Join the Wake Forest University School of Professional Studies in celebrating Juneteenth as the end of slavery in this country and recognizing the resiliency of African Americans. 

Happy Juneteenth

On June 19th, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas and announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state were free in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation that went into effect two years prior. The day became known as Juneteenth and has been celebrated among local, African American communities ever since.

While Texas became the first state to officially designate Juneetenth as a holiday in 1980, it was not until recently that the day was recognized by the mainstream public.  

In the wake of the nationwide protests against police brutality in 2020, the push for federal recognition of Juneteenth gained new momentum, and on June 17, 2021, President Biden signed the bill into law – making Juneteenth the 11th holiday recognized by the federal government. 

The law went into effect immediately, and now as a federal holiday, Juneteenth is receiving the wider recognition it has long deserved. 

Celebrations in the Past and the Present 

Juneteenth is often viewed as our country’s second independence day; it is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery. Many early celebrations involved prayer and family gatherings, but the importance of the day remained prevalent to Black Americans across generations. 

In 1872, a group of African American ministers and businessmen in Houston purchased 10 acres of land and created Emancipation Park which was intended to hold the city’s annual Juneteenth celebration. This marks the beginning of the holiday’s expanding celebration.  

Today, celebrations still take place among families in backyards, but more and more cities hold larger events to commemorate the end of slavery. 

Below are some opportunities to celebrate in Charlotte and Winston-Salem: 


  • Attend the Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas which takes place June 15th – June 18th at the House of Africa. It is a free, multi-cultural celebration that is in its 26th year and includes a drum circle, talent show, youth day camp, craft workshops, heritage tours, and more. 
  • Attend Blumenthal Performing Arts’ Juneteenth Jam: Juneteenth Jam –  a free event on Saturday, June 17, 2023, from 10 am to 7 pm. It takes place at Levine Avenue of the Arts, The Gantt, The Bechtler, and Mint Museum Uptown. The celebration features music, dancing, fashion, poetry, food trucks, and more.
  • Attend Juneteenth Charlotte Celebration — Community West to the West Corridor of Charlotte. Brought to you by a partnership with SESA University and the Stratford Richardson YMCA, the celebration is on June 16th from 3 to 8 pm. and June 17 from 11 am to 8 pm. It takes place at Stratford Richardson YMCA and will include a drumline, art and fashion walk, live music and entertainment, community workshops, youth activities, guest DJs, and more. There will also be a Father’s Day event on June 18 and a Juneteenth business week June 19 to 26. 
  • Attend Juneteenth at the Gantt which takes place Monday, June 19th from 12 pm  to 6 pm at the Gantt Center. Besides free admission, enjoy an archiving workshop, hands-on art, film screenings, conversation and more. Bring a t-shirt, tote bag or scarf to screen print with MacFly Fresh Printing Co. 
  • Attend the 2023 North Carolina Juneteenth Festival at Cabarrus Arena & Events Center on  Saturday, June 17 from 1 pm to 5 pm. The theme of this family-friendly festival is  “Educate, Empower, Entertain” and is free to attend. It features kids’ activities, vendors, giveaways, and more.
  • Southern Hospitality Group is presenting Attend Juneteenth Cookout & Father’s Day Celebration at Victoria Yards on Saturday, June 17 from 12 pm  to 10 pm, and Sunday, June 18 from 1 to 5 pm. Presented by the Southern Hospitality Group, the cookout will include food vendors, games, music and entertainment.


  • Join the Triad Cultural Arts Juneteenth Festival on Saturday, June 17, in the Innovation Quarter Biotech Place from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. for performances, exhibits, crafts, music, and more. The celebrations continue outside in Bailey Park from 1 to 8 pm. with vendors, displays, music and food. The entertainment headline will be tribute band Aretha Meets Earth, Wind & Fire. 
  • Attend the Juneteenth Storytime performance with Diane Faison and “The Spirit of Harriet Tubman” on Saturday, June 17 at 10:30 am in the Bookmarks bookstore. This is a free event for families with registration requested.  
  • Join or cheer on participants at the Juneteenth Kids Fun Run by Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods –  Monday, June 19 10:30 am – 3:00 pm. The Fun Run takes place at Cleveland Avenue Homes at 1135 E 15th St, Winston-Salem. 
  • Attend Lift Every Voice & Sing, A Celebration of Black Composers, a free concert put on by Piedmont Opera on Saturday, June 24th at 2 pm at Calvary Moravian Church. 
  • Attend Juneteenth at the Organ on June 19th at 7pm and hear the Austin Organ of Centenary United Methodist Church with its broad range of tones, from bold and bright, to lush and jazzy. This free program is presented by Jonathan Williams, Chuck Lewis, and baritone Leonard Rowe. 
  • Attend the Juneteenth Jubilee on Saturday, June 17 from 2:00 pm – 9:00 pm at Hanes House. Hosted by Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and in partnership with Steady Hyperactive, a Winston-Salem based multimedia collective, this is a celebration of Black creativity and will feature musical performances, art experiences, small businesses, food vendors & more. Tickets are required for afternoon and evening performances.

If you aren’t located in North Carolina, check out your local community calendar to see what celebrations are happening in your area. 

How to Keep Learning 

One of the best ways to commemorate this day and honor its history is to continually keep educating yourself on the history of Juneteenth, as well as the history of slavery and racism in our country. 

Corey Walker, who is the Director of the Program in African American Studies at Wake Forest, recommends the following readings to help people better understand the history and meaning of the observance: 

  • On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed
  • Oh Freedom! Afro-American Emancipation Celebrations by William H. Wiggins, Jr.
  • Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison
  • Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning of African American Emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915 by Mitch Kachun
  • Rites of August First: Emancipation Day in the Black Atlantic World by Jeffrey R. Kerr-Ritchie
  • Juneteenth: The Story Behind the Celebration by Edward T. Cotham, Jr.

You can also learn more from the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission, including the state’s history with the holidays and additional ways to celebrate in your community and home. 

It is important to remember that Juneteenth is a celebration – of strength, hope, resiliency. It is a day to remember a dark time in our country’s history, and it is a day that we look to the future in hopes of making a better society for all.