Organizers across the country have been planning marches and vigils to celebrate Juneteenth, marking June 19th, the time a group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned that they were free nearly three years after the Emancipation Proclamation passed in 1863.

Nearly 90 marches, vigils and rallies have been organized across New York City for Friday’s observance of Juneteenth, which will also continue the momentum gained from three weeks of Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd’s murder and anger towards racist police tactics.

Juneteenth dates back to 1865, when General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas on June 19th to issue General Orders no. 3. “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, ‘all slaves are free.’ This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

Freed Black people celebrated the first Juneteenth in 1866 with food, singing, and spiritual guidance. Juneteenth still isn’t recognized as a federal holiday but nearly all states either recognized it as a holiday or observation. Governor Andrew Cuomo said earlier this week that this year Juneteenth would be a holiday for state workers and next year he plans to pass legislation making it an official state holiday. On Friday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Juneteenth will be an official holiday in NYC starting next year.

Derrick Spires, an English professor at Cornell University, explained that Juneteenth is a Black American tradition, even more so than Fourth of July.

“The Fourth of July was always slightly off for Black Americans because the Declaration of Independence didn’t apply to them equally. In the 19th Century, Black communities celebrated the Fourth actually on July 5th, in part out of fear of white violence of Black public displays of celebration,” he said.

Listen to The Takeaway's Tanzina Vega interview with Opal Lee, a social impact leader who has been working on having Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday:

The celebration of the first Juneteenth is being echoed today with vigils, rallies, and marches. Spires believes that Juneteenth, at least for the short term, will be seen as a day of remembrance and activism.

“This moment is grabbing the national attention; the attention of white Americans in particular but also Black folk who may not have been as aware of Juneteenth before, and the significance is grabbing the national imagination in a way that I think can roll forward,” he said.

Juneteenth has historically been celebrated in Southern states, but there have been records of celebrations in Chicago and other cities with large Black populations.

And while Black Texans were celebrating Juneteenth, Black New Yorkers, freed in 1827, were lobbying to vote unconditionally. At the time, a Black man had to own $250 worth of property to be eligible to vote in the state.

“New York is an interesting place in particular because it was always a hot spot of Black activism, before and after the Civil War,” Spires said. “They were holding conventions in the 1860s as Emancipation was happening.”

Spires grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, and when he was a child, his church would hold a homecoming as a way to observe Juneteenth and celebrate family. Nowadays, he takes the day to read and reflect on the past.

“I hope the momentum continues that this doesn’t become a fad where we get Juneteenth T-shirts and hashtags on social media,” he said. “The significance of the holiday loses its historical context because that context is one of the great achievements of U.S. history. Also, it didn’t last. It’s not as if Emancipation happened and enslaved people were free and suddenly we had all the rights and privileges of citizenship. That’s still a work in progress.”

For anyone wanting to learn more about the history of Juneteenth and Emancipation, Spires recommends Uncle Tom’s Children by Richard Wright, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Tatum, Out of The House of Bondage by Thavolia Glymph and the open-source website, The Colored Conventions Project. (Consider buying the books one from one of these Black-owned bookstores.)

Below is the list of marches and vigils organized for June 19th, 2020:


10 a.m.: 10 Grand Army Plaza

10:30 a.m.: 5K at Machate Circle

12 p.m.: Vigil and march at Brooklyn Museum

12 p.m.: Brooklyn Bridge

12 p.m.: Barclays Center

12 p.m.: Drive at Grand Army Plaza arch

1 p.m.: DeKalb Avenue and South Oxford Street

1 p.m.: Kaiser Park

1 p.m.: Prospect Park and Lincoln Road

1 p.m.: New Lots 3 Train station

1 p.m.: Bike ride at Brooklyn Museum

2 p.m.: Barclays Center

2 p.m.: Grand Army Plaza

2 p.m.: McCarren Park

2 p.m.: Nostrand Avenue and Farragut Road

2 p.m.: Rally and barbecue at 155th Bay Street

2 p.m.: Cadman Plaza

2:30 p.m.: Flatbush Avenue and Empire Boulevard

3:00 p.m.: Grand Army Plaza

3:00 p.m.: 300 Ashland Place

3:30 p.m.: Eastern Parkway and Utica Avenue

4 p.m.: Fort Greene Park

4 p.m.: Grand Army Plaza

4 p.m.: Myrtle Avenue and Broadway

4 p.m.: Drum Circle at Grand Army Plaza Oval

4 p.m.: Tillary Street and Boerum Place

4 p.m.: Irving Square Park

4:30 p.m.: Walk at 369 New Lots Avenue

4:30 p.m.: Fort Greene Park

4:30 p.m.: Herbert von King Park

5 p.m.: Multiple Locations through East New York: Broadway Junction, Franklin K Lane High School, Starrett City Shopping Center, Gateway Mall, Linden Movie Theater, New Lots Plaza, Genesis Houses

5 p.m.: Malcolm X Boulevard and Macon Street

5:15 p.m.: Candlelight vigil at SUNY Downstate Medical Center (450 Clarkson Avenue Entrance)

6 p.m.: Barclays Center

6 p.m.: Grand Army Plaza

6 p.m.: Brooklyn Bridge Park

6:15 p.m.: 5K run and bike at 1368 Fulton Avenue

6:30 p.m.: Prospect Park

7 p.m.: St. Johns Place and Franklin Avenue

7 p.m.: McCarren Park

7:45 p.m.: Prospect Park

8 p.m.: Bike at Brooklyn Museum


10 a.m.: Washington Square Park

10 a.m.: 60 West 129th Street

10 a.m.: Tweed Courthouse

11 a.m.: Silent March at 125th Street

12 p.m.: March at Seneca Village Site in Central Park

12 p.m.: Riverbank State Park in Harlem

12 p.m.: Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building at 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard

12 p.m.: Harriet Tubman Memorial (St. Nicholas Avenue and Fredrick Douglas Boulevard)

1 p.m.: 142nd Street and Broadway

1 p.m.: Central Park North and 110th Street

1 p.m.: Alamo Cube Cooper Square

1 p.m.: Central Park North and 110th Street

1 p.m.: Columbus Circle

1 p.m.: St. Nicholas Park

1:11 p.m.: 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard

1:30 p.m.: Rally at PS 163 (West 57th Street and Amsterdam Avenue)

2 p.m.: City Hall

2 p.m.: North Meadow in Central Park

2 p.m.: Marcus Garvey Park

2 p.m.: Bike at 2268 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard

2 p.m.: Seneca Village

3 p.m.: 110th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard

3:30 p.m.: Washington Square Park

4 p.m.: Children's Book Reading at Riverside Park and 85th Street

4 p.m.: West Harlem Piers

6 p.m.: Storytime at Carl Schurz Park

6:30 p.m.: Marcus Garvey Park Amphitheatre

7 p.m.: Washington Square Park

7:30 p.m.: 5K run at Mitchel Square Park


7:30 a.m.: Far Rockaway Beach at Beach 105th Street

11 a.m.: 80th Street and 37th Avenue

12 p.m.: 109-50 Merrick Boulevard

12:30 p.m.: Ascan Avenue and Austin Street

1 p.m.: 83rd Street and Roosevelt

1 p.m.: 89-17 Sutphin Boulevard

2 p.m.: Jamaica Multiplex

3 p.m.: 115th Avenue and 221st Street

4 p.m.: Flushing Meadows Park

6:30 p.m.: Poster making at MOMA PS1

8:30 p.m.: St. Michael's Park


12 p.m.: 4101 White Plains Road

3 p.m.: Soundview Park

5 p.m.: Bike ride at Middletown Road and Stadium Avenue


12 p.m.: 230 Broad Street at Gerard Carter Center

2 p.m.: Youth Picnic at Clove Lakes Park

2 p.m.: Victory Boulevard and Bay Street


11 a.m.: Juneteenth Virtual Rally (Registration)

1 p.m.-5 p.m.: Instagram Live with @letstalknydpdorum

1 p.m.: Living History @ Home: Celebrate Juneteenth with Dimenna Children’s History Museum (Registration)

Event information via @justiceforgeorgenyc