Juneteenth National Independence Day became a recent federal holiday in 2021, but Juneteenth, as it’s commonly called, has been around for more than 150 years. Its name is a combination of June and 19, and it commemorates the day in 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston, Texas, with General Order No. 3 to announce that the Civil War had ended and enslaved African Americans were free.
Juneteenth is celebrated on the third Saturday in June. Most celebrations include a public reading of the Emancipation Proclamation and the singing of traditional songs. Picnics and barbecues are Juneteenth staples, and depending on where you celebrate, you might see a rodeo or a historical reenactment. This year, whether you’ve been to many Juneteenth celebrations or you’d like to check it out for the first time, keep these sites in mind as ways to honor and enjoy this important national holiday.
Galveston Island State Park
Galveston Island State Park offers a beach side and a bay side with places to hike, bike, fish, and enjoy time on the water canoeing, kayaking, or standup paddling. Galveston Island is a great place to celebrate Juneteenth because, in addition to time outdoors, visiting this state park connects visitors with sites and celebrations in the place where Juneteenth began. More Info: tpwd.texas.gov
Galveston is the birthplace of Juneteenth, and although there are no national parks or historic sites in the area, there is no better place to learn about Juneteenth and celebrate the holiday. While there, go to Ashton Villa, where General Order No. 3 was read, see the Juneteenth Marker at the former site of the Osterman Building, another place where General Granger announced enslaved African Americans were free. And take in the city’s numerous readings, arts and cultural events, parades, and celebrations. More Info: visitgalveston.com
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park
Church Creek, Maryland
Harriet Tubman, often considered “the Moses of her people,” led dozens of slaves to freedom. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park celebrates a national hero and is a great destination for Juneteenth commemoration. The park includes a beautiful visitor’s center, exhibits, a film about Tubman’s life and impact, and a legacy garden. The park also connects to The Tubman Byway, a self-guided driving tour through prominent sites in Tubman’s life and work. More Info: nps.gov
Sailwinds Park offers an ideal entry point for activities and attractions in and around Dorchester County. About 20 minutes away from the national park, make sure to see The Harriet Tubman Museum & Education Center in Cambridge, Md. The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge—30,000 acres of woodland, tidal marsh, ponds, and croplands noted for birdwatching, cycling, hiking, paddling, and other outdoor activities—is another destination that’s popular for good reason. Also make sure to check out the Chesapeake Mural Trail.