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.

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. The last enslaved Black people in the U.S. learned from Union soldiers in Texas that they were free, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

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. Illinois will soon designate it as an official state holiday, thanks to recent legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 2021.  

 

“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:

(All events on Saturday, June 19 unless noted.)

 

Alton

Along the Mississippi River, Alton will mark 30 years of celebrating Juneteenth at the James H. Killion Park with cultural presentations, performances and homemade cuisine.

From now until July 11, 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

Come celebrate the “One Nation” Juneteenth event with food, vendors, talent contests, face painting, a basketball tournament and more (3:30 p.m.). Host: African American Men of Unity

 

Bloomington

Members of Bloomington’s African American community, acting as living statues, will share stories (10 and 11 a.m.). Sponsors: The Mclean County History Museum and the Bloomington-Normal Black History Project 

Carbondale

The Carbondale Black History Museum, local non-profits and community organizations will celebrate the 20th annual festival, with an expo and ceremony at the cemetery to honor the formerly enslaved buried there.

Chicago area

The Du Sable Museum of African American History reopens at 11 a.m. with a Welcome Back ceremony. In recognition of the Chicago community, the museum is offering free admission today and for the remainder of the month. For museum-goers who cannot attend the ceremony, plan to join one of the other summer weekly events such as DuJazz (Wednesday evening), DuSalsa and/or DuAfrique (alternate every Thursday), DuHouse Music (Friday evenings), DuComedy (Saturday) and DuSteppin’ Day Party (Sunday). Tickets required for these events.

National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum hosts its 9th annual Juneteenth Recommitment Celebration with a city-wide caravan parade and evening of activities.

The Homewood-Flossmoor Juneteenth Festival includes food, music and dance (11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.).

 

Elgin

The Juneteenth Motorcade Parade celebrates all nations of the African Continent at Tyler Creek Plaza. Bring the kids for a bouncy house, plus entertainment, food and a boxing match (noon to 8 p.m.). Host: The African American Coalition of Kane County

 

East St. Louis

The Unity and Wellness Motorcade kicks off the day’s celebrations (11 a.m.) followed by a festival at Jones Park (noon to 8 p.m.). Host: Juneteenth 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 7 p.m.).

 

Rockford

In its 31st year, the state’s longest standing Juneteenth Celebration includes a business expo, live performances, community wide graduation recognition and gospel tribute (Saturday, 1–9 p.m. and Sunday 5–8 p.m.). Host: Inner City Reconstruction Group

 

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 2nd annual 217 Black Restaurant Weekend (June 17–21) 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.

Save the Date

November 5–December 5, 2021

Broadway in Chicago presents the pre-Broadway premiere of Paradise Square. The musical tells the story of African American and Irish immigrant neighbors living in New York’s lower Manhattan slum known as Five Points in 1863.