Things to Do

7 Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth

Juneteenth, celebrated annually on June 19th, is a day that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. It marks a pivotal moment in American history, signifying the end of a brutal and dehumanizing chapter of this nation’s past.

While the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, declared all enslaved people in the Confederacy were to be freed, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 (once the American Civil War was officially over), that this decree reached the last group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas.

While Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1866 and formally recognized in 1872, it only became a national holiday in 2021 when new legislation was signed into being by President Biden. That makes it the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983 – and that is certainly special.

So, how can you honor Juneteenth? Below are some options.

1. Hold a Cookout

Community has always been a huge source of strength in the Black community, and barbecuing together helps create and strengthen ties between distant family members, friend groups and neighbors. 

Incorporate as many traditional Black foods as possible, such as baby back ribs, grilled chicken or fish, lemon pepper shrimp and baked macaroni and cheese. Potato salad, barbecue baked beans, fried plantains, collard greens with ham and bacon and corn salad will also be appreciated.

2. Wear Red and Add Red Food

The color red has significant cultural and symbolic importance to Juneteenth celebrations, so get out your red shoes, red scarves and other red clothing items and put them on! The color red is associated with strength, spirituality and resilience. It’s also used to symbolize the unity and collective strength of the Black community. 

Red food and drinks have long been a traditional part of Juneteenth celebrations, so if you decide to hold a cookout or a party for your friends and family, include things like red punch, strawberry soda and red velvet cake as part of the festivities. 

3. Support Black-Owned Businesses

Make a conscious effort to support Black-owned businesses in your local community, whether you patronize restaurants, small boutiques or service providers. Your support can make a significant impact on someone’s livelihood – and even a small purchase can make a big difference.

If you can’t get out to a local store or there aren’t any Black-owned businesses in your area that provide what you currently need, get online and look for Black-owned businesses and creators there. Many innovative artists and brands have a big online presence even when they don’t have a brick-and-mortar storefront.

4. Go to a Museum

Whether you’re of African American descent yourself or you are simply an ally, learning more about Black history can help you understand more about the struggles people of color have faced – and the culture that they’ve preserved despite the obstacles. 

In Indiana, there’s the African American Museum in Evansville, which is dedicated to preserving local Black history, the contributions of African Americans to the community and important information about the struggle for civil rights. Located right in Indianapolis at the Crispus Attucks High School, the Crispus Attucks Museum is known for its provocative and thoughtful approach to Black history, including exhibits that discuss the painful history of racially motivated lynchings in the 1930s and the importance of the Fair Housing Act. Freetown Village is another Indianapolis presence, and it’s a living history museum that offers educational programs, reenactments and events that bring Black history in the 19th and early 20th centuries to life.

5. Dine at a Black-Owned Restaurant

Food has always held an important place in African American culture, so if you don’t want to hold a barbecue, you can still enjoy a meal at a Black-owned restaurant to show your support for the community. 

Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place has been serving soul food for more than 20 years and has attracted the attention of notable Black Americans like Chandra Davis and Barack Obama – which speaks highly of the cuisine! Since 2017, Chef Oya Woodruff’s restaurant, The TRAP,  has been offering amazing seafood boils with all the trimmings, at prices that won’t break your budget.


6. Take in Some Music

Music has always had a significant presence within the Black community, without which the world would be bereft of gospel, blues, hip-hop, rap and jazz – so get out there and attend one of the many concerts or shows that will be available on or around Juneteenth.

The Juneteenth Black Heritage Concert celebrates gospel and blues, while the Earlham Jazz Band Performance takes another route. If you want to catch up-and-coming artists or show off your own talents, there are numerous Juneteenth Open Mic nights happening all around the state, featuring poetry, hip hop and jazz. If you’re just looking for music for your barbecue or party, check out Spotify’s “Songs for Freedom: A Juneteenth Playlist” and consider playing it in the background.

7. Read a Book

Not everybody has a social battery that’s geared toward celebrations – but you can still support Juneteenth by reading about Black history or buying books by Black authors. 

Check out Penguin Random House’s official Juneteenth Reading List to look for fiction, nonfiction and poetry that celebrates Black heritage and writers – or the Juneteenth Reading List promoted by the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. for more ideas.

Over the years, Juneteenth festivities have grown to include educational events, community gatherings, and cultural celebrations – and the holiday itself has come to be very important to many people of color. Take some time this year to engage with the past, appreciate the present and look toward the future – where diversity is genuinely appreciated for the myriad ways in which it enriches us all, no matter the color of our skin.