Celebrate the Juneteenth Holiday in These Seven Cities

From Memphis to Galveston and Charleston to Detroit, your Juneteenth 2023 road trip can lead to citywide celebrations of Black history and culture.

Absolute Equality mural in Galveston, TX Visit Galveston

There’s a park in Memphis, Tennessee, that once held a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general, trader of enslaved people and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan. His remains, and those of his wife, were also buried there. As a result, many Black Memphians didn’t feel welcome.

Then in 2013, the Memphis City Council changed the park’s name from Forrest Park to Health Sciences Park.

But in 2021, one woman, Telisa Franklin, felt it was time to also change the narrative of the area. She wanted the park to become the setting of a different kind of remembrance: the Juneteenth holiday.

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, to announce to the state’s more than 250,000 enslaved Black people that they were free—2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

The holiday is also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day and Black Independence Day.

On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed legislation designating Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Photo of Telisa Franklin outside in Memphis, TN Telisa Franklin

Juneteenth celebration in the park

Memphis native Telisa Franklin’s childhood home, located in the historic Black community of Douglass, sits across from Douglass Park, where the city’s annual Juneteenth celebration (then called the Juneteenth Freedom & Heritage Festival) took place for 28 years.

Franklin (AAA Member since 2018), is a Juneteenth historian; a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) consultant; and a motivational speaker. For nearly 13 years, she’s also been the president of the Memphis Juneteenth Festival.

In 2021, she had the idea of moving the festival to Health Sciences Park.

“We’ve got to heal from the pain that we see every day in this park,” she recalls thinking at the time.

Many in her community opposed the move, but she persevered.

“Many African Americans had never set foot in that park because we knew what it represented. Now to set foot on that land where many were enslaved—now to have a Juneteenth celebration there ... this ground is being reclaimed,” she says. “It will be a healing place.”

Franklin’s drive to move the Juneteenth event was also to ensure that it wasn’t considered a celebration just for one community. She wanted it to unite all Memphis residents.

“It was imperative to move it out of the [Douglass] community to make it more inclusive,” she says. “It is imperative that we continue to make change that’s going to continue to help our city be what it needs to be.”

This year’s Juneteenth festival will be held June 17–18 and includes a youth showcase, a 2.5-mile Freedom Run/Walk, a Greek stroll and more. Additional events are also planned throughout June.

Pull quote with photo of Telisa Franklin. Telisa Franklin says, “It is imperative that we continue to make change that’s going to continue to help our city be what it needs to be.”

Additional must-see sites

While you’re in Memphis, also check out the Memphis Heritage Trail, Robert R. Church Park (named after Robert Reed Church, Memphis’ first Black millionaire), the Sojourner Truth Memorial Time Capsule and historic Beale Street.

Celebrate Juneteenth and Black history around the nation

From Memphis to Galveston, Texas, and Charleston, South Carolina, to Detroit, Juneteenth celebrations across the country include parades, concerts, symposiums, poetry slams, family reunions, block parties, barbecues and more.

Here’s a sampling of Juneteenth celebrations in other cities.

Galveston, Texas

Historical marker for Juneteenth in Galveston, TX Visit Galveston

In 1979, Texas passed an act declaring Juneteenth a state holiday. Galveston Island is known as the birthplace of Juneteenth because on June 19, 1865, Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and roughly 2,000 federal troops arrived there to formally inform 250,000+ enslaved Black and African American people that the Emancipation Proclamation had freed them.

Galveston is also:

  • The location of Central High School, the state’s first African American high school
  • Home to Galveston Public Library, the first public library in Texas
  • The birthplace of world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson
  • Home to the historic Black cemetery where Jessie McGuire Dent, a Delta  (a Black sorority) founder is buried
  • The location of Texas’s first African Methodist Episcopal church

Juneteenth 2023 events run June 15–19 and include a gala, a comedy fest, a festival, a parade and a picnic. Hear more about how Juneteenth traces its roots to Galveston.

Additional must-see sites

While you’re in Galveston, take the Juneteenth Freedom Walk, a self-guided tour where you can learn about five historic sites and visit the African American Museum featuring island trailblazers.


The first Juneteenth Atlanta Parade & Music Festival was held 11 years ago with more vendors than attendees. The grassroots effort was spearheaded by founder and organizer Bob Johnson, who generated interest by distributing flyers throughout neighborhoods and at local businesses.

Over the years, Juneteenth Atlanta has evolved into a nonprofit with hundreds of volunteers. Johnson spends at least seven months organizing the three-day event, now held at the 22-acre Centennial Olympic Park—the site of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. This year’s celebration is set for June 16–18 and includes four entertainment stages; parades; a Freedom Walk, Run and Roll; and a Cease-Fire Summit, a youth-led rally against violence.

With each year, its prestige grows. The festival is broadcast on local cable TV and has the endorsement of celebrities Louis Gossett Jr., Chris Tucker and Keith David.

“Our goal is to bring forth history, pre- and post-Juneteenth, focusing on contributions made throughout history by ancestors and …[build] bridges for future generations,” Johnson says. “We also focus on promoting liberty, unity, freedom, reparation, human rights, social justice and judicial reform. The bottom line is reuniting the diaspora with the continent through art, music, dance and dialogue.”

Pull quote with photo of Bob Johnson. Bob Johnson says, “Our goal is to bring forth history, pre- and post-Juneteenth and ... [build] bridges for future generations.”

Charleston, South Carolina

Nearly half of enslaved Africans brought to America came through Charleston, according to Harvard professor and historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Additionally, nearly 80% of African Americans can potentially trace an ancestor who arrived in Charleston.

This Lowcountry city observes Juneteenth with music, food, art and a family festival. The third annual Juneteenth Family Fest at Riverfront Park, on June 17, is free to attend and includes live performances, displays of artwork by Black artists, activities for children, food and a fireworks finale. Bring lawn chairs, blankets and bug spray!

Man stands outside with pieces of artwork in Charleston, SC Bubble Photography Studios

Additional must-see sites

Charleston’s International African American Museum opens to the public on June 27. The 150,000-square-foot space features nine galleries and exhibits—on the site of Gadsden’s Wharf, one of the country’s most prolific ports for the trading of enslaved people.

Also while you’re in Charleston, check out these 11 historic African American sites. To learn more about Charleston’s rich and extensive African American experience, start here. The Green Book of South Carolina is a free mobile travel guide to over 400 African American cultural sites throughout the state.

Washington, D.C.

Celebrate Juneteenth in the nation’s capital by absorbing Black history and culture through numerous art exhibits, music, dance and theater events.

For example, see the Emancipation Proclamation at the National Archives; stroll one of newest landmarks in the capital, the Black Lives Matter Plaza; or visit the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture at the National Mall. Also, this three-day itinerary centered on Black history and culture includes tours of monuments, museums, restaurants, concerts and the Washington Nationals ballpark.

Overhead view of Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC Courtesy of Washington.org


The 1865 Coalition organizes 1865 Fest, a Juneteenth cultural experience at Garfield Park. The annual event honors Black veterans and fathers and features family activities, live music and educational workshops.

While you’re in Chicago, also check out Chicago Mahogany Tours with cultural historian Shermann “Dilla” Thomas, whose 60-second Black history videos on TikTok are viral; the South Side Community Arts Center, founded in 1940, a Chicago historic landmark and the country’s oldest African American art center; and the Underground Bookstore, also in the South Side, where you’ll find an extensive selection of books for all ages on Black heritage and history.

Additional must-see sites

Explore more ways to celebrate in Chicago, including various neighborhood festivals, art exhibits and live music.


Woman standing outside behind table wearing a Juneteenth t-shirt, selling hair products in Detroit, MI Juneteenth Jubilee Detroit

The City of Detroit’s Civil Rights, Inclusion & Opportunity Department and Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship have planned a week-long slate of events to uplift Black culture, support Black business, and share stories of triumph and success.

The city’s Juneteenth Freedom Weekend celebration includes a fashion show, a block party and a market.

Additional must-see sites

For more than 50 years, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History has explored and celebrated the rich cultural legacy of African Americans.

Two exhibitions devoted to the historical significance of “refuge” and “safe spaces” for African Americans are on display:  

  • Mapping the Michigan Green Book," sheds light on the little-known history of Black travel during the Jim Crow era. The Negro Motorist Green Book was a guidebook, created by Victor Hugo Green, that listed safe places for Black travelers to eat, sleep, and shop, in a time when segregation and discrimination made travel challenging. 
  • "Derrick Adams: Sanctuary" is an immersive exhibition that explores the concept of the Black interior, and how domestic spaces have historically provided refuge and sanctuary for African Americans.

The exhibits are available to tour during the Juneteenth holiday and reveals details about African American life, post-emancipation.

Keep reading in: