Six Ways To Celebrate Juneteenth

THOUGH THE NEWEST

national holiday in the United States, Juneteenth has been observed by Black Americans for more than a century. The anniversary honors the act of liberation on June 19, 1865, when African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were told they were free, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation. The day was called Juneteenth, a word merging “June” and “nineteenth.”

Over the last couple years, the Hoosier state has added more Juneteenth festivities to its roster of events commemorating the holiday. From the Macknificent Freedom Fest in Fort Wayne to Jeffersonville’s Juneteenth Celebration, there are plenty of events popping up to mark this historic day. 

Juneteenth Foodways Festival
Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site
June 16, 4:30–8 p.m.

The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site hosts its popular Juneteenth Foodways Festival, where guests can experience how Black foodways contribute to American culture. It honors renowned Black caterer and chef Dolly Johnson, appointed as the first Black chef in the White House by President Benjamin Harrison. The festival will feature more than 30 of Central Indiana’s Black-owned restaurants, caterers, and vendors. Special menu items will represent the cultural heritage and contributions of Black foodways on American culture.

Indiana State Museum Juneteenth Festival
Indiana State Museum
June 17, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Where better to celebrate Black Hoosier history than the Indiana State Museum? This family-friendly event is free and coincides with other Juneteenth celebrations in downtown Indy. The event will feature special activities and partners, including Black-owned food trucks Robin Hood BBQ and The Garnacha Spot. This year’s event will include the chance to create chalk paint murals, build unique woodwork with Deeply Ingrained, or cycle with Nine13 Sports. “We will also have our wonderful curators doing chats throughout the day in our Influencing Lincoln exhibit, specifically about the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment,” says Hayley Wilson, Director of Interpretation, Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.

Images courtesy Indiana State Museum

Macknificent Freedom Fest
McMillen Park, Fort Wayne
June 17, 1:30–6 p.m.

Macknificent Freedom Fest will have food, merchandise, basketball, football, kickball, and 1 million reps tournaments. Not to be outdone, the city will have a few other events and activities around town including another celebration at Foster Park with music, educational discussions, and more. A Keepers of the Light ceremony will occur at the nearby Weisser Park at 10 a.m. at The Art Leadership Center Promenade on Oxford Street. New this year is the Juneteenth exhibit at the Rolland Center for Lincoln Research at Allen County Public Library. “The exhibit will have items that have not been displayed for decades, if ever,” says Jessa Campbell, marketing and communications manager with Visit Fort Wayne. On display will be miniature versions of the Emancipation Proclamation, items from Fredrick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, and speeches discussing Abraham Lincoln’s legacy. Fort Wayne’s Genealogy Center also stands out as one of the best places in the country to research African American family histories, helping Black families find history they thought had been lost.

Chief Condra Ridley speaks during the 2022 Juneteenth Macknificent Freedom Fest at McMillen Park.

Austin Mack (center), wide receiver with the San Francisco 49ers and a Bishop Luers graduate, with Adrian Curry of The Art Leadership Center during a presentation at the Juneteenth Macknificent Freedom Fest at McMillen Park on June 18, 2022.

Photos by Rachel Von Stroup

Juneteenth Muncie
McCulloch Park, Muncie
June 17, 2–9 p.m.

The fourth annual Juneteenth Muncie celebration is planned through the volunteer committee and lead organization of Indiana Black Expo, Inc., Muncie Chapter. Full of family fun, the event will include live music, spoken word performances, inflatables, free food, vendors, and more. There will also be panel discussions and a history walk to inspire hands-on learning about the importance of Juneteenth. “The event is special because all are invited,” says Dorica Watson, Juneteenth Muncie co-chair. “We believe that we are better together if we are willing to do life together.”

Juneteenth Celebration
Noco and Depot, Downtown Jeffersonville
June 17–18, 10 a.m.–11 p.m.

In 2020, the city’s first Juneteenth celebration was a small gathering planned by a local family. Wanting to carry on the tradition, Miguel Hampton and Missy Smith decided to create a two-day street festival supported by local residents, community leaders, and small businesses. “Juneteenth is an embodiment of really understanding African American history, American history, how we persevered against all odds and in the face of adversity, how we still continue to show up and have hope that at some point in time that in this country, we will find both equality and equity,” says Miguel Hampton, owner of F5 Enterprises, LLC, which helps cover the marketing, branding, and photography of the event. Attendees can expect live music from local artists and DJs, along with cultural and historic readings and discussions. Stop by the Legacy POP Tent to learn more about the Legacy of African American Leadership in Clark and Floyd Counties. On Thursday, June 15, a special panel will discuss how to build sustainable and equitable ecosystems in a presentation titled Let’s Talk Economic Health and Wellness.

Black History Trail, Richmond
Multiple locations

If you’re looking for something to do at your own pace, check out this digital trail that covers Richmond and incorporates Wayne and Randolph Counties. Go to the Visit Richmond website to find the list of historic locales that feature the rich history of African Americans. These include highlights like Wayne County’s Underground Railroad movement and area producer Gennett Records, which recorded legendary jazz musicians Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington when others wouldn’t. On the trail, visitors can stop at landmarks such as the Gennett Records Walk of Fame and the Levi & Catharine Coffin State Historic Site. “The History Channel ranked the Levi and Catharine House as one of the top 25 most historic sites in the United States,” says Nancy Sartain, leisure marketing director with Richmond–Wayne County Convention & Tourism Bureau. This year, the Wayne County Historical Museum will also unveil a signature Black history exhibit Sunday, June 25, called Our Legacy: 1800 & Beyond. The exhibit focuses on the stories of Wayne County’s Black residents and their impact, plus connections to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.

Images courtesy Black History Trail, Richmond