June 19, 1865 began as another average day in South Texas, at a time during which chattel slavery was very much alive. However, the day ended quite differently as Union troops finally arrived to Galveston Bay in Texas with one pivotal message: the Union had won the Civil War and henceforth all enslaved people were to be free. Though these soldiers arrived with this news a full two years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved peoples, the actual end of slavery was not uniformly enforceable in all states across the Union. Upon this news reaching the small community located in Galveston Bay, Texas, formerly enslaved people broke out into joyous celebration. This festive occasion, recalled by the Black community to this day as ‘Juneteenth,’ traveled with the descendants of the first celebrants across the United States, and remains the longest celebrated end to slavery in the United States.
Juneteenth finally gained status as a federal holiday in June 2021, over 150 years after it originated. In 2022, the holiday will be celebrated for the second time as a federal holiday. In President Biden’s proclamation of the holiday, he acknowledges the holiday’s importance in a national reckoning with America’s legacy of racial inhumanity. A day marked for celebrating Black joy and resilience in the United States, and a reminder for US citizens to continue to join forces to pursue racial equality and justice, Juneteenth is commemorated across the New York City area. Here we have assembled ten exciting free events across the city to commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth.