Gov. Ralph Northam today proclaimed June 19, 2020 as Juneteenth Freedom Day, calling all Virginians to observance and encouraging them to join in commemorative events throughout the Commonwealth. Earlier this week, performing artist and Virginia native Pharrell Williams joined the Governor as he announced plans to mark Juneteenth as a permanent paid state holiday.

Juneteenth is the oldest known commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. It marks the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, the last of the former Confederate states to abolish slavery, finally received word that the Civil War had ended, and the Emancipation Proclamation had freed them nearly two and a half years earlier.

“The history of Juneteenth is not just Black history—it is American history,” said Northam. “Juneteenth marks a pivotal moment in the American story that should be commemorated by all of us. I encourage Virginians across our Commonwealth to take the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and understanding of Juneteenth and celebrate the numerous contributions of Black and African Americans that have, for far too long, been overlooked.”

A list of some commemorative events around Virginia are listed below.

Juneteenth, A Freedom Celebration

Elegba Folklore Society, which has been holding celebrations since 1996, hosting “Juneteenth, A Freedom Celebration” online this year. The virtual event features performances from jazz artists among many others. The celebration starts at 5 p.m. today.

COVID-19 Testing Event: Your Health is Your Wealth

The Hampton Branch of the NAACP, Urban League of Hampton Roads, Hampton University, Sentara Health System, the Virginia Department of Health, and Peninsula Foodbank have partnered to host the “Juneteenth: Your Health is Your Wealth,” a free coronavirus drive thru testing event today at the Emancipation Oak parking lot on the Hampton University campus located on Emancipation Drive. Free face masks, gloves, and boxes of food will be distributed.

Self-Preservation: A Juneteenth Online Conversation About Black Historic Preservation

Join Virginia Humanities and the Virginia African American Cultural Resources (VAACR) Task Force for a Juneteenth online conversation on the state of Black historic preservation in Virginia. VAACR Task Force founding chair Del. Delores McQuinn will be joined by Dr. Colita Nichols Fairfax, chairman of the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, Norfolk State University professor, and president of the Barrett-Peake Heritage Foundation in Hampton, and Niya Bates, historic preservationist and board member of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center in Charlottesville. Justin Reid, Director of Community Initiatives at Virginia Humanities will moderate the discussion.

Black Freedom Launch

On June 19, six leading Black museums and historical institutions will join forces to launch BLKFREEDOM.org, a digital commemoration of Juneteenth. BLKFREEDOM.org will air an original video presentation featuring appearances from Lonnie G. Bunch III, the first African American and historian to serve as the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, as well as Dr. Johnetta Betsch Cole, anthropologist, educator, museum director, and the first female African American president of Spelman College, along with the Honorable Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library.

James Madison’s Montpelier Events

Montpelier, the Orange County African-American Historical Society, and The Arts Center in Orange have created a website featuring the performers, vendors, reenactors, and historical information that make up the core of the Juneteenth celebration. Learn about African American history at Montpelier and throughout Orange County; celebrate Juneteenth by watching and interacting with performers, musicians, historical interpreters, and artists; support local artists and businesses by buying from Juneteenth vendors; reunite with family, teammates, scouts, and friends; and connect with local community groups.

Also, as part of Juneteenth, Montpelier will host a walking tour on June 20 of sites of Emancipation with Dr. Matthew Reeves, Montpelier’s Director of Archaeology and Landscape Restoration, and a book talk on June 25 with descendant, author, and historian Dr. Bettye Kearse, who will discuss her book The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President’s Black Family. For more information, visit https://ocaahsjuneteenth.org/celebrate/.