A Day to Reflect: Juneteenth

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June 19, also known as Juneteenth, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States when Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of the Civil War and all enslaved people were now free.

One of the oldest celebrated days in the United States, the Juneteenth date is now widely recognized in the American consciousness as we revisit our nation’s history. Juneteenth was proclaimed a federal holiday and became an official Illinois holiday in June 2021. 

The national reckoning over race helped set the stage for Juneteenth to become the first new federal holiday since 1983, when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created. 

“We are the Land of Lincoln – with a proud legacy of embracing the emancipation and rejecting slavery even before the Civil War as a safe haven for enslaved people traveling the Underground Railroad. It is only fitting that Illinois is now at the forefront of recognizing Juneteenth – allowing our communities a chance to honor those before us and to celebrate the freedom it represents today. As our nation continues to reflect on the impacts of its history, we encourage Illinoisans to join celebrations in their communities to recognize the importance of Juneteenth this year and in years ahead," said Stephanie Taylor, co-chair of the Illinois Juneteenth Committee. 

 

The Illinois Juneteenth Committee is a grassroots-driven group comprised of community organizers who are leading the charge on educating residents and communities statewide in acknowledgement, celebration and advocacy of the importance of Juneteenth in American history.

Here’s how and where you can celebrate the legacy of Juneteenth across Illinois: 

Alton

Along the Mississippi River, Alton will mark 31 years of celebrating Juneteenth at the James H. Killion Park with cultural presentations, performances and homemade cuisine.

Discover untold Black stories through an audio and visual walking tour of downtown Alton. The 1-mile route along the Broadway corridor includes personal stories from 15 residents. Scan the QR code at any of the stops to download a map and audio excerpts or click here. 

Aurora

On June 18, come celebrate Juneteenth with food, vendors, talent show, face painting, a basketball tournament and more (3:30 p.m.). Host: African American Men of Unity

Bloomington

Join us for a day of celebration, information & inspiration during this year's Juneteenth Celebration featuring entertainment and performances, community resources, vendors and food trucks. Sponsors: The Mclean County History Museum and the Bloomington-Normal Black History Project 

Chicago area

The DuSable Museum of African American History, the Nation’s Oldest Independent African American Museum is Celebrating 61 years. Pull up to the DuSable Juneteenth BBQ on June 19, 2022, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm, B.Y.O.G. Bring your own grill.

Elgin

The Elgin Cultural Arts Commission and the African-American Coalition of Kane County are excited to bring back the Juneteenth Celebration to Elgin with a whole weekend of events
 

East St. Louis

National Juneteenth Freedom Day Motorcade and Ms. Opal Lee Freedom Walk for Juneteenth. Hosted by: Illinois Juneteenth Committee - Metro East.

Peoria

Plan to spend the day at the Carver Center at John Gwynn Park for the Juneteenth Fest with vendors and performances (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

Rockford

In its 31st year, the state’s longest-standing Juneteenth Celebration includes live performances and gospel tribute (Saturday, 3 p.m. - 7. p.m. and Sunday –11 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.)

Springfield

Enjoy a weekend’s worth of happenings in the state capital. The Illinois State Museum hosts a Noir Art Exhibit, plus there’s plenty of fresh-air activities like a parade, fun run and outdoor revival in Comer Cox Park.

Food and community come together during the 3rd annual 217 Black Restaurant Weekend in Springfield (June 17–19) in conjunction with the city’s Juneteenth celebration. Come out, celebrate and support Black-owned restaurants while gaining more insight into Springfield’s culinary culture. 

To celebrate Juneteenth, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum will display the Emancipation Proclamation, in a free exhibit from June 17, June 19-24 and June 27-30.

In 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing anyone enslaved in states trying to secede from the Union. However, the proclamation could not be enforced until federal troops captured Southern territory, which meant many people remained as property until the end of the Civil War. Among those remaining folks were the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas, who gained their freedom with the arrival of federal troops on June 19, 1865.