Juneteenth in Brooklyn manifested as a festival of freedom, self-expression, community and creativity across the city’s most populous borough.
At the Brooklyn Museum, the annual holiday commemorating the end of legal slavery in America saw a full day of activities celebrating Black liberation. Much like many across Kings County, this year’s event took place on Father’s Day — one day before the new federal holiday — and featured activities for the whole family.
Juneteenth marks the historic emancipation of enslaved Black Americans. After three years of civil war that took thousands of lives from people who believed in an equal right to freedom, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” On June 19, 1865, still enslaved people in Texas — the last Confederate state to abolish slavery — were liberated by Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger.
Just last year, President Joe Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Juneteenth was celebrated across Brooklyn on Sunday, including at Industry City, where performances took place throughout the day, accompanying a photo exhibit highlighting the richness of African American culture, and at the Weeksville Heritage Center where Black vendors came together for a sprawling food festival.
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Thousands gathered for Juneteenth UNITYFEST, a BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! concert at Prospect Park, and not far away, Brooklyn Museum kicked off its day-long roster with Good Company Bike Club’s Freedom Ride — a tour through historic locations and landmarks that have shaped Brooklyn’s Black community, including stops at Black-owned restaurants.
Meanwhile, a yoga class inspired by ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and a guided meditation for liberation took place in the third floor Beaux-Arts Court. The space then turned into a place for declamation since, for many, freedom and poetry go hand in hand.
But what is a party without dancing? The sculpture garden was the floor for Afrocentric dances through the Ages, followed by Brown Sugar Bounce, a Black classic new wave music experience. A collective of New York-based visual artists, Souls in Focus, were also there to make community portraits.
The Brooklyn Museum programming was developed in partnership with The Culture LP and our family-programming partners Cool Culture and Culture Connected.