What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a word created by the fusion of the words June and nineteenth. Juneteenth – also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day – is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who were enslaved in the United States.

Watch this video by Jesse Jones III for more about the history and significance of Juneteenth.

Juneteenth video in American Sign Language. Click here for transcript.
[Visual description: Jesse Jones III, a dark-skinned man with locs pulled back, a beard, and blue eyes, in front of an office space.]

Celebrate, Learn, and Reflect

  1. Why Juneteenth is important
  2. Local Juneteenth Celebrations & Activities
  3. Healing & Mental Health Resources for the Black Community
  4. Educational Resources
    1. Juneteenth: Films, books, and other digital media
    2. Racial Justice: Films, books, and other digital media
    3. Abolition and Freedom: Films, books, and other digital media
    4. Deeper Dive: Curated resources, historical documents, and primary sources
  5. Reflection Questions

Why Juneteenth is Important

Taking time to celebrate, learn, and reflect upon the importance of Juneteenth is an important part of living in, and coping with, the vestiges of American slavery. Understanding and addressing the generational impacts of white supremacy and racism that are embedded in the cultural milieu of the United States is work for all of us.

“A Juneteenth national holiday might offer us…the necessary space as a country to investigate our racial past without recriminations and discover solidarity going forward. It could also prevent us from repeating the generational cycle of fleeting racial progress marked by a resurgence of racial violence and terror.”

Dr. Joseph Peniel, Professor of Public Affairs; Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values; Founding Director, Center for the Study of Race and Democracy | UT – Austin | Read the full article here.

“An examination of Juneteenth illustrates how deep…racist roots go.”

Dr. Brenda E. Stevenson, Professor and Nickoll Family Endowed Chair in History and Professor African American Studies | UCLA | Read the full article here.

Local Juneteenth Celebrations and Activities

Roxbury Restaurant Week 2021
June 13 – June 19

In the economic shock brought on by COVID19, over 110,000 restaurants permanently closed their doors. While businesses overall reported steep losses in activity, Black enterprises experienced a 41% drop nationwide. As state and city officials mobilized efforts to keep Boston’s food industry afloat, Roxbury’s restaurants were still missing from Boston Restaurant Week in 2020. In response to this crisis, Misha Thomas, General Manager of Haley House Bakery Café, in partnership with Roxbury Main Streets, is organizing “Roxbury Restaurant Week” to support these local businesses. Meal Order Links will be shared on RoxburyMainstreets.org and other social media to the general public.

On Juneteenth: Annette Gordon-Reed in Conversation with Elizabeth Cobbs
June 17th, 6-7pm
Free, Virtual

Interweaving American history, dramatic family chronicle, and searing episodes of memoir, Annette Gordon-Reed, the descendant of enslaved people brought to Texas in the 1850s, recounts the origins of Juneteenth and explores the legacies of the holiday that remain with us. A commemoration of Juneteenth and the fraught legacies of slavery that still persist, On Juneteenth is a stark reminder that the fight for equality is ongoing. Advanced registration is requested.

Juneteenth Panel Event with the National Black Worker Center
June 17th, 7pm
Free, Virtual

In this panel, we will discuss the history of Juneteenth, the CROWN Act, and reparations, and ways we all take action. Advance registration is requested.

One Night in Boston: A Celebration of Juneteenth
June 18th, 6:30-11:30pm
JazzUrbane Cafe, 2300 Washington Street

The evening and weekend, organized in collaboration with a host of amazing organizational partners including BAMS, Boston Children’s Chorus, Boston Ujima Project, Boston While Black, Jazz Urbane, Project Step, and Roxbury Cultural District, will serve as the inaugural launch of an annual Juneteenth collaboration, One Night In Boston. This weekend will also serve as a tribute to Black Music Month and part of All-Inclusive Boston. Please register in advance.

Interrogating Juneteenth: History as Teacher
The 11th Annual Juneteenth Emancipation Initiative

June 19th, 11am-1pm and 4-9pm
Free, Virtual

Watch the LIVE AIRING on SATURDAY JUNE 19TH, 2021 presented by the Boston Juneteenth Committee and The National Center for Afro American Artists. Free online registration required.

Juneteenth MFA Celebration
June 19, 2021, 10am – 10pm

Join us on-site at the MFA for a day of activities and programs to celebrate Juneteenth and honor the contributions of Black artists, scholars, and creative voices to the City of Boston. Stop by for art-making, music, Spotlight Talks, an outdoor film screening presented in partnership with the Roxbury International Film Festival, and more as we celebrate the day with joy and resolve. Advance registration is required.

Juneteenth: Opera in the Key of Freedom
June 19th, 12:30-1:30pm
Free, Virtual

Through a variety of music from Black Composers across three centuries, we will celebrate Juneteenth with the themes of freedom, triumph, and joy. These works will be performed by leading Black Musicians of the Greater Boston Arts scene and filmed at the African Meeting House on Boston’s Historic Black Heritage Trail. Advance registration is requested.

About Black Feminisms Part I: Freedom Fête, Juneteenth Virtual Party
June 19th, 1-5pm
Free, Virtual

This virtual dance party explores musical innovation as part of the Black legacy. DJs from around the U.S. will celebrate the beauty and contributions of the African Diaspora in their musical selections, while keeping us grooving and donating to two stellar organizations: Boston Ujima Project and Matahari Women Workers Center. Advanced registration is requested.

Juneteenth Online Celebration with Bishop Harris
June 19th, 4:30pm
Free, Virtual

All are invited to gather online with Bishop Gayle E. Harris for a virtual Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 19 at 4:30 p.m., commemorating the ending of slavery in the U.S. and also marking the Feast of Bernard Mizeki, Catechist and Martyr in Mashonaland in 1896. Advance registration is required.

The Black Matters Juneteenth Experience
June 19th, 5-9pm
Free, Starlight Square, 84 Bishop Allen Drive LOT #5, Cambridge

The Black Matters Juneteenth Experience is an opportunity for our community to come together, celebrate, and heal. The evening will include live musical performances from Cambridge artists, poetry readings, dancing, and giveaways! We hope you will join us! Advanced online registration is available on Eventbrite.

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Healing and Mental Health Resources
for the Black Community

Academics for Black Survival and Wellness
Academics for Black Survival and Wellness was organized by a group of Black counseling psychologists and their colleagues who practice Black allyship. Guided by a Black feminist frame, we hope to foster accountability and growth for non-Black people and enhance healing and wellness for Black people.

Afro Flow Yoga
Experience live music, meditation, yoga and dance of the African Diaspora. Connect with our Earth, Sky, and Heart in an inclusive and diverse circle of non-judgement. — Founded by Leslie Salmon Jones and Jeff W. Jones

Anthony P. Clay Healing Project
Where trauma meets holistic healing. Ebony LePenn – Licensed Massage Therapist, Reiki Master Teacher, Sound Healer ahand617@gmail.com, (781) 241-5804

Black Emotional And Mental Health Collective (BEAM)
Toolkits and Resources

BEAM is a collective of advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, psychologists and activists committed to the emotional/mental health and healing of Black communities. Through education, training, advocacy and the creative arts, BEAM works to remove the barriers that Black people experience getting access to or staying connected with emotional health care and healing.

BLM Healing Action Toolkit
This toolkit was created to collate, condense and share the lessons we have learned in ensuring that our direct actions are centered on healing justice.

Black Mental Health Alliance
Provides referrals to individuals seeking licensed culturally-competent clinicians for behavioral and mental health treatment, and offers meaningful, engaging and empowering monthly programming educating Black people on their ability to heal both individually and as a community

The Black Virtual Wellness Directory
We are a collective of advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, psychologists and activists committed to the emotional/mental health and healing of Black communities.

Changing Frequencies
An archival/memory and cultural organizing abolitionist project building power with communities who want to confront, heal from & transform & dismantle the historical and contemporary exploitative practices and abuses of the Medical Industrial Complex (MIC)

Inclusive Therapists Directory
Celebrating all identities and abilities in all bodies. Inclusive Therapists offers a safer, simpler way to find a culturally responsive, social justice-oriented therapist.

Marlene Boyette and Four Corners Wellness
Marlene is a social justice focused educator, facilitator, and disruptor, an E-RYT & certified trauma informed yoga instructor, and practices sound healing. Four Corners Wellness is one place where Marlene practices. Four Corners provides a total holistic wellness solution for the community, offering a safe, welcoming, culturally affirming sanctuary. Four Corners offers a variety of bodywork treatments and workshops focused on health, healing, and peace of mind.

The Loveland Therapy Fund
The Loveland Therapy Fund provides financial assistance to Black women and girls seeking therapy nationally.

National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network
NQTTCN is a healing justice organization that works to transform mental health for queer and trans people of color (QTPoC). We work at the intersection of movements for social justice and the field of mental health.

Sistahs of the Calabash (Alternative & Holistic Health Service)
We are the daughters of Great Mothers and descendants of Afro-indigenous ancestors. Our medicine is born from an intergenerational womxn tribe of Iyas, diviners, rootworkers, energy workers, educators, artists, midwives, and shamans. sistahsofthecalabash@gmail.com

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Educational Resources

All resources that are available online or through the Emerson College Iwasaki Library are linked in the listings below. Our library staff are in the process of making more of these titles available in e-book and hard-copy formats.

Juneteenth: Films, books, and other digital media

Racial Justice: Films, books, and other digital media

Abolition and Freedom: Films, books, and other digital media

  • Azadi: Freedom, Fascism, Fiction by Arundhati Roy
  • Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement, edited by Ejeris Dixon and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Deeper Dive: Curated resources, historical documents, and primary sources

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Reflection Questions

  1. What is freedom? 
  2. When did you first learn about Juneteenth? Did you learn about Juneteenth in grade school or in college? Was it taught to you by your family or community?
  3. How have formerly enslaved people and their descendants experienced freedom since Juneteenth? How have they not?
  4. Why is it important to celebrate and commemorate Juneteenth?
  5. What conversations can you have about Juneteenth with the folx in your community (family, friends, work, etc.)?
  6. Reflecting on abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech, he states, “What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?” How will you remember and celebrate both of these important dates in US history? 
  7. Reflecting on the text in the 13th Amendment, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime…”: How do you feel knowing that slavery has not been completely abolished in the US?
  8. What vestiges of slavery still exist in the US? 
  9. How have you seen white supremacy and movements for freedom showing up in US society today?
  10. Imagine a world where all people are truly free. What could that be like? What could that feel, taste, sound, smell, or look like?

What are you going to do this Juneteenth?

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