Juneteenth June 19, 2021

Juneteenth, a portmanteau of "June" and "19th," commemorates the emancipation of slavery in the United States. It originated in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger arrived there to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Although President Abraham Lincoln had signed the proclamation nearly three years before, on Sept. 22, 1862, it was not immediately adopted across all states.

Enforcement depended on the advancement of Union troops, which were hard to come by in remote Texas, so it became a final holdout. The enforcement of emancipation there after a long wait was truly cause for celebration. The first Juneteenth celebration took place in Galveston on June 19, 1866, and it has since caught on across the country. Although it is not a federal holiday, only three U.S. states - Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota - have yet to recognize it as a state holiday. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared it a permanent paid state holiday in June 2020, and Lexington adopted it as a formal city holiday this year.

In celebration of Juneteenth, representatives from multiple Lexington and Rockbridge organizations joined forces to plan a series of fun and thought-provoking events during the month of June, including an art show, live music, dance performance and raffle in downtown Lexington.

Below is a detailed schedule of events for Lexington's 2021 Juneteenth celebration.

Schedule of Events

Date/TimeEvent
June 2 — 26: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Every Wednesday through Saturday during this time period, the Juneteenth Art Show will be open at Nelson Gallery, 27 W. Washington Street, Lexington. The theme of this year's show is "Together We Rise."

For more information about how to submit works to the art show, call Project Horizon at 540.463.7861 or email ph@rockbridge.net.
Wednesday, June 9 In coordination with the Juneteenth event, librarians at W&L, VMI and Rockbridge Regional Libraries are jointly creating a reading list and a guide to related treasures from their archives. Access that database.
Monday, June 14: 7 p.m. The Rockbridge Historical Society will host a Zoom presentation called "Fighting for Freedom: Black Union Soldiers from Rockbridge." More than 60 men from the county served in 28 regiments in the Civil War, enlisting in 13 states. Some were free before the war while others were enslaved men who escaped to join the fight to end slavery. They included carpenters, farmers, waiters, a blacksmith and a descendant of the Hemings family of Monticello. Cinder Stanton and Larry Spurgeon will discuss their research, and RHS Executive Director Eric Wilson will moderate. If you missed the presentation, a recording can be viewed online.
Thursday, June 17: 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. A Looking at Blackness (LAB) Movie Screening/Discussion will take place on Zoom. The film will be "Miss Juneteenth" (2020). More information.
Saturday, June 19: All Day Juneteenth Celebration in Downtown Lexington.
Saturday, June 19: 12 – 2 p.m. Music at Hopkins Green. Complimentary cookies from Washington and Lee University Catering (while supplies last).
Saturday, June 19: 2 – 4 p.m. Kuumba Dance Ensemble performance at Hopkins Green.
Saturday, June 19: 5 – 7 p.m. Steel drum band Oasis Island Sounds will play live music on Washington Street. The section of Washington Street between S. Jefferson and S. Main streets will be closed to traffic.
Saturday, June 19: 5 – 7 p.m. Juneteenth Art Show reception, Nelson Gallery.

A free raffle will take place at the art opening, and prizes will include gift certificates to favorite Lexington restaurantsand two gift certificates generously donated by Main Street Lexington. Winners of both the art show and the raffle will be announced during Oasis Island Sounds' set break.
Saturday, June 19: 7 – 9 p.m. Dinner Downtown. The following Lexington restaurants have pledged to feature a special Juneteenth dish on the menu all weekend. They have also generously donated gift certificates for the art show raffle.

Thank you to our sponsors!

  • CARE Rockbridge
  • Rockbridge NAACP
  • Project Horizon
  • 50 Ways Rockbridge
  • Washington and Lee University Libraries, Office of Institutional History, Africana Studies Program, and Office of Community-Based Learning
  • Rockbridge Historical Society
  • City of Lexington
  • Historical Lexington Foundation

Header image: "Mama Lu" by Linda Powell