23 May 2024

Norfolk Juneteenth Events

When Juneteenth became officially recognized as a federal holiday in 2021, it marked a pivotal moment in African American and American history. Although Juneteenth (June 19) is the longest-running African American holiday, its national observance sparked a new opportunity for education, celebration and dialogue. 

History of Juneteenth

Known as African American Independence Day, Freedom Day or Jubilee Day, Juneteenth commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States. Although the Emancipation Proclamation proclaimed the freedom of more than 3.5 million enslaved African Americans on Jan. 1, 1863, it took over two years for word to spread to all enslaved people. In fact, some enslavers deliberately withheld news about freedom to maintain labor on the plantation, waiting until harvest season was over. This was the case for many slave owners in Texas–a state that hadn’t experienced a significant presence of Union troops and was considered a safe haven for slavery. 

On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to spread the news, take control and ensure that the remaining 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were freed. The following year, Texas freedmen started the first “Jubilee Day” celebration on June 19. The tradition has continued, influencing commemorations that include music, food and religious services and, more recently, festivals, rallies, memorials and parades.

“Black Lives More Than Matter,” a mural in Norfolk’s NEON District painted by local artists Nicole Harp and Clayton Singleton

How to Celebrate

There are many ways to celebrate Juneteenth in Norfolk this year, including a conference on racial equity and social transformation, film event or Festevents’ annual Juneteenth in the Park! Here are some ways to commemorate this history and holiday.

Juneteenth: Resilience and Freedom

June 8
Chrysler Museum, Kaufman Theater

Courtesy Chrysler Museum

The Virginia African American Cultural Center, the New Journal and Guide, and the Chrysler Museum of Art come together to look at pivotal moments in African American history through art, song, historical accounts, and storytelling to understand what resilience and freedom truly mean in contemporary times as the nation sets forth to recognize and celebrate the Juneteenth holiday. Featured performers include Amber Garrett and Nathan Richardson, and you are welcome to attend a Pre-Program Art Tour with Docent Guide Barbara Higgins.

Free, registration recommended.

2-4 p.m.

JUneteenth In the Park

June 15
Town Point Park

Join in the fun of Juneteenth this year! This event is designed to promote and support as we celebrate Juneteenth! Presented by Norfolk Festevents, this event is free and open to the public. Noon-6:30 p.m.

Community Juneteenth Celebration

June 15
Ingleside Recreation Field

Come join Helping Hands Resource, Inc & Empowering Youth 20/20 for a fantastic day of fun, music, and togetherness at the Norfolk Ingleside Recreation! We are excited to celebrate Juneteenth, an important event in American history that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Live performances from talented local artists, delicious food from various vendors, and engaging activities for people of all ages. 2-6 p.m.

Juneteenth at the SloveR

June 15
Downtown BRanch At Slover

Join us as we commemorate the legacy of Juneteenth! There will be workshops, art displays, musical performances and storytimes. Bring your family and friends and learn about the holiday. Noon to 5 p.m.

Juneteenth Black Business Market

June 19
The Plot, Neon District

Festevents

Celebrate some of Norfolk’s Black-owned businesses at this shopping event in the NEON District from noon to 6 p.m.

Juneteenth Free Fare on HRT

June 19

On the Juneteenth holiday, all Hampton roads transit fixed route services (bus, light rail, ferry) and paratransit will be free for passengers.

Juneteenth Your Way: Self-Guided Explorations and Activities

With any holiday, individuals, families and communities commemorate in ways that feel special to them. Here are some additional ideas to begin your own Juneteenth traditions. 

TAKE A SELF-GUIDED TOUR OF WATERWAYS TO FREEDOM

With its complex and interwoven waterways, Virginia provided a starting point for thousands of individuals to escape slavery. Fugitive slaves would depart on wharves, steamships and schooners and be assisted by safe houses (especially churches and neighborhoods) on their journey to northern states and Canada. Take a self-guided tour of Underground Railroad Sites in Norfolk and Portsmouth and learn the history of the people and places that made it possible to escape–and the many dangerous obstacles that stood in the way. 

VISIT WEST POINT MONUMENT AT WEST POINT CEMETERY

West Point Monument was dedicated as a special place of burial for African American Union Civil War and Spanish American War veterans. It is one of only a few African American Civil War Memorials located in the South. The Civil War soldier depicted on the monument is Norfolk native Sergeant William H. Carney of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment. Carney was the first black soldier to receive the Medal of Honor for his bravery. Nearly 100 African American veterans are laid to rest in the West Point Cemetery. West Point Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 and is now commemorated with a historical highway marker along Princess Anne Road.

SUPPORT A LOCAL BLACK-OWNED BUSINESS

The city of Norfolk would not be the creative, diverse and vibrant community that it is without the endless contributions made by African American residents and business owners. From scrumptious soul food to self-care sanctuaries, we celebrate these businesses within our city and encourage you to visit their establishments as you celebrate Juneteenth–but especially all year long.

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