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Philadelphia Celebrates Juneteenth 2024

You could say the road to Juneteenth began in Philly — Cheltenham, to be precise. In 1862, the site of a part of Philly-adjacent Montco called “LaMott” became the site of Camp William Penn, the Civil War’s first military training facility for African American troops from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Troops from Camp William Penn would go on to do many things: Become part of the 178,000 United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T), which also included AAPI and Indigenous Americans. Battle racism within the military itself, including fighting for and winning equal pay, even if they didn’t win equal promotions.

These troops would die at much higher rates than their White counterparts. They’d also comprise the 22nd infantry, the soldiers who captured Abraham Lincoln’s assassins — and marched from previously seceded state to state to announce the end of slavery. Their last stop: Galveston, Texas, where, two-and-a-half months after the Civil War had ended, on June 19, 1865, their regiment of 2,000 bore the news to the very last enslaved African Americans. In other words, 2,000 men who fought for their own freedom got to deliver the good news to their people — establishing Juneteenth.

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is Black Americans’ — and Black Philadelphians’ — independence day. It’s a reminder that we were not complicit in our capture. That everyday we rebelled with our survival. That we took arms for our independence, and we marched home to tell the story. It’s an indication to celebrate our culture, to commemorate our roots. To praise our strength, and creativity. It’s another reason for us to come together, to dance, to laugh and to be joyful.

In other words, 2,000 men who fought for their own freedom got to deliver the good news to their people.

This Juneteenth, Philadelphians can celebrate all over town, from Old City to Germantown, West Philly to Chestnut Hill. As for me? I’ll be celebrating in my neighborhood, Kingsessing (more on that below). To see my neighbors come together and create something that uplifts our culture, our spirit, and reminds us of where we come from, is so significant. Juneteenth also reminds us of who we are and all of the beautiful intersections of Blackness. To be Black and proud, Black and Queer, Black and outspoken, Black and reserved, to be Black and free — physically, mentally and spiritually.

“Juneteenth means freedom for so many people, for so many reasons. I try to get people to understand it’s not a Texas thing, is not a Black thing — it’s freedom for everybody. I’m hoping, eventually, we will celebrate from the 19th of June to the Fourth of July; that would be celebrating freedom.”Ms. Opal Lee, the “Grandmother” of Juneteenth

Juneteenth: from Southwest to all over

In 2020, Khaleef “the Repairationist” Alexander and a group of his friends from high school and college decided they wanted to up their engagement with their Kingsessing community. Members of the group included teachers, event planners, and neighborhood advocates who’d worked on issues and causes within city government, including City Council. They named their group “Millennial Juneteenth” — a shoutout to both their own generation and that of their ancestors.

One goal of Millennial Juneteenth (MJ): Establish a holiday that the youngbouls of Southwest Philly will celebrate for generations to come. “A major point of the event is to just show ourselves that we can be around one another without anything bad happening — because for some reason people think that’s a myth,” says Alexander.

To that end, the group teamed up with Ronald Brown, aka Philadelphia’s “Mr. Juneteenth.” Widely credited with reviving the holiday in Philly, Brown has organized Juneteenth parades, picnics, and educational events. He also helped lead a decades-long effort to make Juneteenth a state — and national — holiday. These efforts first paid off in 2019, when Pennsylvania declared Juneteenth a state holiday.

Vendors at Millennial Juneteenth’s festival.

The next year, after eight months of trying to get signatures for a petition from National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF) to make June 19 a federal holiday, Brown shared the petition with MJ, who did what millennials do: Put it on social media. Twenty-four hours later, the petition had over 15,000 signatures. A couple months later, those signatures grew to 1 million. And the rest, as they say, is history.

But MJ isn’t just about a one-day holiday. Since their founding, the group has organized protests, drawn up and circulated petitions for free HBCUs, hosted both food pantry drives and pop-up Covid testing. Alexander and his group firmly believe that the people in the City of Brotherly Love need to know their history and take pride in their power. Helping make Juneteenth a national holiday, he says, is proof of what grassroots Philly organizations can achieve.



Juneteenth Festival, Germantown

The Germantown Juneteenth Festival

The Johnson House Historic Site kicks off the weekend and commemorates its 17th annual Juneteenth Festival on Saturday, June 15 from noon to 7pm. The Germantown event feels both special and neighbrohood-y. As this is a historic spot, there are historical reenactments and a serious panel discussion. But there’s also live music — African drumming and dancing — a children’s village, food trucks and loads of street vendors. Free. 6306 Germantown Avenue

Juneteenth Festival, Tioga-Nicetown

Horseback ride in Nicetown-Tioga.

June 17 from 1 to 5pm marks three for City Athletic Community Partners’ Juneteenth Festival (that feels like a beefed-up block party). The neighborhood can expect great eats — barbecue, funnel cake, water ice — DJ’ed tunes, a bouncy house, horseback rides, jump rope, African drumming, ax-throwing, face-painting, Black vendors. Free. W. Tioga Street between 19th and 20th streets

Historical and Cultural Institution Fair, Center City

Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate Oyewumi Oyeniyi.

The Free Library of Philadelphia has partnered with numerous nonprofits to curate a Juneteenth Historical and Cultural Institution Resource and Information Fair, June 15 at 1pm at the Heim Center for Cultural and Civic Engagement at Parkway Central Library. The all-ages event includes a mosaic workshop with Ellen Tiberino and spoken word with Philly’s own Youth Poet Laureate Oyewumi Oyeniyi. Free. 1901 Vine Street


Juneteenth Parade & Festival, West Philly

Grand Marshals at the West Philly Juneteenth parade

West Philly’s biggest public celebration is, well, big. The Juneteenth Parade & Festival typically attracts more than 25,000 celebrants for four main events, all on June 16, all free.


Juneteenth Block Party, African American Museum in Philadelphia, Center City

A previous Juneteenth at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

On the official holiday, the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) activates inside and out, June 19 from 10am to 4pm. This year’s theme, “Rhythms of Liberation.” The all-free celebration lets families and friends browse a marketplace, make art, line dance, dine at food trucks, and get lucky at giveaways. The whole event is free, including admission to the museum itself and the exhibition Imprint: Dox Thrash: Black Life, and American Culture. Free. 701 Arch Street

Literary Family Reunion, Harriett’s Bookshop, Fishtown

Harriett’s Bookshop owner Jeannine Cook.

Jeannine Cook’s grassroots, avant garde Harriett’s Bookshop collaborates with nonprofit The Friends of the Tanner House to celebrate literary icon June Jordan on June 19, noon to 6pm. The afternoon-long event features a discussion with Christopher Rogers, Coco Tomás and Alexis De Veaux on Jordan’s local and global impacts. Joèl Leon and PA Sen. Nikil Saval read “Everything and Nothing at Once” and “A Rage in Harlem,” respectively. Chef Tonia Renae provides the soul food platters. Free. 258 E. Girard Avenue

P.S. The historical Henry Tanner House needs our help! Donate here.

Fishtown Neighbors Bash, Fishtown

June 19 from noon to 4pm, The Fishtown Neighbors Association is hosting a big ol’ block party! All are invited to bust-ah-move to sounds provided by DJ Headrush, and sip on adult-oriented handcrafted bevs from local vendors like Manatawny Still Works and Bottle Bar East. Drinks aside, it’s still a family friendly event: Don’t miss the enchanting kid-friendly Mlanjeni Magical Theater, with puppets, illusions and interactive fun. No RSVP needed: Just pull up. Free. 1300 block of N. Lee Street

Juneteenth Festival, Kingsessing, Southwest Philadelphia

Millennial Juneteenth.

Millennial Juneteenth hosts their annual Juneteenth festival on June 19 from 2 to 7pm in Kingsessing at Woodland Playground. Look for Black-owned businesses, including food vendors and all sorts of artists, including DJ TopChoice and special guest, Philly’s own KUR. It’s gonna be a movie! Free. 48th and Woodland Playground

One goal of Millennial Juneteenth (MJ): Establish a holiday that the youngbouls of Southwest Philly will celebrate for generations to come.

Juneteenth Dinner, Francis Cope House, Germantown

Known for its goats and its outdoors, Awbury Arboretum brings the attraction inside to its historic Francis Cope House on June 19 from 5 to 8pm for an unforgettable Juneteenth dining celebration. Chef Gail creates a Black culture-inspired meal, while Germantown Infohub’s Rasheed Ajamu hosts a panel on the fight for liberation. Also there:  live jazz from the soulful sounds of Koof Ibi. $55. 1 Awbury Road


Friday Night Lounge, Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Friday Night Lounge at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Albert Yee.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Friday Night Lounge celebrates Juneteenth on June 21 from 5 to 8:45pm with live performance by Rashaan Rich & The JuneB All Stars and pay-what-you-wish admission. 


Juneteenth, National Constitution Center

The National Constitution Center.

The National Constitution Center offers free admission on July 19 from 10am to 5pm. Once you’re in, catch Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality, the “first permanent exhibit in America devoted to exploring how constitutional clashes over slavery set the stage for the Civil War.” Free. 525 Arch Street

Juneteenth, Museum of the American Revolution

Courtesy of the Museum of the American Revolution.

On Juneteenth, June 19 from 11am to 5pm, the Museum of the American Revolution offers special programming like the Gallery Highlights Tour, Black Voices of the Revolution (noon),  a discovery cart about Harry Washington, enslaved by George Washington, and an in-gallery talk about poet Phyllis Wheatley. Ticket: $22-$24 adult, $19 senior, student, military, teacher, $13 ages 6-17. 101 S. 3rd Street


Juneteenth: Celebrating Literary and Artistic Freedom, Athenaeum, Center City

The Philadelphia Athenaeum.

The African-American Children’s Book Project (AACBP) — the folks behind one of the country’s largest children’s book fairs featuring BIPOC authors and illustrations — are also behind an afternoon of storytelling and book exploration on June 15 at 1pm. AACBP founder Vanesse J. Lloyd-Sgambati hosts author Olugbumisola Rhuday-Perkovichand and documentary producer Donna Limerick, with a focus on Mae Reeves (1912-2016), a renowned hat designer, successful entrepreneur and community advocate. Registration requested. Free. 219 S. 6th Street

Woodmere Art Museum. Photo courtesy of Visit Philadelphia.

Juneteenth Family Celebration, Woodmere Art Museum, Chestnut Hill

On June 15 from 2 to 4pm, fabulous little Woodmere offers art-making (including flags of freedom-making) and storytelling, and a 3pm performance by storyteller, poet, vocalist and musician TAHIRA. Free. Registration requested. 9201 Germantown Avenue

Juneteenth 2024, Please Touch Museum, West Fairmount Park

Queen Nur.

The Please Touch Museum hosts an all-day celebration, June 19 from 9am to 4:30pm with storytellers Queen Nur, Kim Taylor and Oni Lasana, performances by the West African drummers Troupe Dada, a movement workshop with Black Urban Theater’s Lewis Harris, plus Juneteenth printing and tie dying. Admission is $22; $2 for ACCESS cardholders. 4231 Avenue of the Republic


Juneteenth Wine & Arts Festival, Cherry Street Pier

 The Women’s Coalition for Empowerment, Inc. and Cyrenity Sips Winery LLC co-host an afternoon of tasting wines by Black vintners, taking in art, watching live performances, and shopping for local crafts on June 15 from 1 to 6pm at Cherry Street Pier — the second-ever Juneteenth Wine & Arts Festival. Free to attend. $20-$75 for the wine tasting. 121 N. Columbus Boulevard

Juneteenth Concert, Betsy Ross House, Old City

Philadelphia Heritage Chorale.

The Philadelphia Heritage Chorale performs a free Juneteenth Concert of spirituals and gospel in the courtyard of the Betsy Ross House June 15 at 3pm. Rain date: June 22. Free. 239 Arch Street

A String, Sing & Musical Thing for Juneteenth, Parkway Central Free Library

Karen “Magic Fingaz” Smith

Karen “Magic Fingaz” Smith, lead percussionist and artistic director of the Sistahs Laying Down Hands Collective, leads a drum and vocal celebration outside the Parkway Central Branch of the Free Library (in Shakespeare Park) for Juneteenth, June 17 at 5:30pm. Free. 1901 Vine Street

Guided Talk,  Magic Gardens, South Street

Rose and the Firefighters by Isaiah Zagar at the Magic Gardens.

Only have 30 minutes for Philadelphia’s Black heritage? Pop by the Magic Gardens on June 19 from 2 to 2:30pm for a brief dive into the compelling history that shaped the legacy of the Seventh Ward — including nearby Mother Bethel A.M.E. and a historic firehouse — through the artistic lens of mosaic maven Isaiah Zagar. Free. Alder Street alley off South Street (between S. 10th and S. 11th Streets)

The Re-Emancipation of Social Dance, Old City

Intercultural Journeys hosts The Re-Emancipation of Social Dance on June 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30pm. Created by dancer-choreographer Raja Feather Kelly and poet Yolanda Wisher, this interactive dance party throughout five “living rooms” featuring five Philadelphia-based, generation-crossing, genre-defying artists, blending storytelling with dance, words and multimedia. $20. 20 N. American Street 4th Floor

Correction: A previous version of this post misidentified the exact location of Camp William Penn. BLACK HISTORY AND CELEBRATION IN PHILADELPHIA

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