Juneteenth is a day that commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States and Philadelphia is home to one of the largest celebrations in the country. The holiday — celebrated annually on June 19th — is an opportunity for Philadelphia to celebrate its rich heritage and diverse communities. Every June, the city is filled with experiences that amplify Philadelphia’s storied Black history. This includes festive block parties, live music performances, and insightful museum programming.
History of Juneteenth
On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and an army of federal troops marched into Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and emancipate enslaved people. Although the Emancipation Proclamation — President Lincoln’s executive order abolishing slavery — was nearly three years old, many enslavers continued to hold enslaved people captive. After that moment, June 19th became a symbolic date representing Black freedom, now known as Juneteenth.
The celebration of the first Juneteenth — a blend of “June” and “nineteenth” — was held in Texas the following year and soon gained momentum in other states. Juneteenth was officially made a federal holiday in 2021, after President Biden signed a bill recognizing the holiday.
Today in Philadelphia, Juneteenth celebrations take place across the city. Some held in the same sites where our Founding Fathers first declared our freedom centuries ago.
Philadelphia commemorates the Juneteenth holiday each year with a series of festivals, parades, and community events. One of the in largest Juneteenth celebrations the nation is the annual Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade & Festival. Since its inception in 2016, the event has drawn over 25,000 people each year. The annual celebration starts with a mile-and-a-half-long parade featuring over 2,000 participants and 20 floats. After the parade, the party keeps going at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia, with live performances, food trucks, and community vendors.
Juneteenth also marks the start of Philadelphia’s annual Wawa Welcome American festival. The sixteen-day free-festival runs from Juneteenth through July 4 and celebrates those holidays with free museum days, fireworks, and food fairs. For Juneteenth, Wawa Welcome America hosts free admission days at the African American Museum and an annual block party celebrating liberation.
Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood is home to another large Juneteenth celebration, held annually outside the Johnson House Historic Site. The house was once home to the Johnson family of Quaker abolitionists. It is one the few intact Philadelphia historic sites that served as stations along the Underground Railroad. The Johnson House’s annual Juneteenth festival features historic re-enactments, a panel discussion, food trucks, African drumming, and more.
Each June, local museums open their doors for special Juneteenth programming. The Museum of the American Revolution hosts a series of activities, including guided tours, a farmers market, and a series of lectures.
The National Constitution Center commemorates the holiday by offering free admission on Juneteenth. They also offers tours of the Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality exhibit. The Betsy Ross House celebrates by treating visitors to a special concert featuring a performance by the Philadelphia Heritage Chorale.
Planning to visit Philadelphia around Juneteenth? Visit our Plan Your Trip page to complete your Philadelphia itinerary.