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Juneteenth, a combination of “June” and “nineteenth,” is celebrated each year on June 19 and commemorates the day in 1865 when the last of those enslaved in Texas received news of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed two years earlier. Now recognized as a federal holiday, New Jersey was the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery,

Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed January 1, 1863, the amendment wasn’t fully ratified until December 1865, after the Civil War. Some southern slaveholders claimed Black people were still their property, so the Union Army rode south to inform slaves they were free. Here’s how you can explain the holiday to your kids.

We’ve rounded up some events— most in-person, but a few virtual— where you can celebrate Juneteenth in NJ.

In-Person Events

Asbury Park
This Juneteenth Celebration begins with a “kickoff” at 11 am, followed by a parade and festival lasting until 6 pm. Enjoy music, food, and special guests as you celebrate!

Atlantic City
The Showboat Hotel will be hosting a two-day Black Excellence Festival complete with a celebrity basketball game, comedy show, and food trucks.

At 3:30 pm outside of Bayonne City Hall, city officials  and Members of Black in Bayonne will raise the Pan African Flag.

Bloomfield Township
Bloomfield is choosing to recognize this holiday with a discussion of its significance, which will take place at Bloomfield High School on the 18th at 6 pm. The next day, there will be an outdoor festival at the Bloomfield Center beginning at noon.

An organized motorcade celebration will begin at 1 pm, followed by  a festival at Wiggins Waterfront Park at 2pm. Featured festival performances will include African dance groups and singers.

Cape May
After years of construction, the Harriet Tubman Museum will finally celebrate its grand opening this Saturday, with dancing, speeches, and Civil War reenactments beginning at 11 am in Rotary Park.

This year, celebrate Juneteenth in Elizabeth at the 2021 Juneteenth Caravan & Marketplace, which will take place at Veteran’s Memorial Park. The caravan will begin at 4 pm, followed by the opening of a “marketplace” with a food festival and market from 5-9 pm.

Stop by the Glassboro Sports Complex and take part in the Juneteenth Candle Light Vigil & Memorial Event, which will take place from 1-6 pm. Family fun will abound, what with the food, music, and products from black-owned business owners that will all be available! Just make sure to bring a mask and remain social distanced.

From 9 am-2 pm, celebrate at Carver Park with the help of the Fellowship of Black Churches of Hackensack and Vicinity Hackensack Jr Basketball, who have organized the town’s first ever Juneteenth Festival. Make sure to arrive in time for the 10 am flag ceremony!

Jersey City
Head to Berry Lane Park between 1 and 7 pm for a Family Festival organized by the African Cultural Arts Committee, at which you can enjoy live entertainment from African musicians and dancers— food will be served by vendors throughout the day. Plus, check out the Juneteenth Parking Lot Pop-Up Shop, which will be held at the Jersey City Recreation Complex

Little Ferry
The historic Gethsemane Cemetery— founded in 1860 as a final resting place for Hackensack’s African-American population— will be open to the public for public viewing from 1-4 pm. Bergen County Historian Dr. Arnold Brown will be on site to answer questions.

Maplewood/South Orange
Celebratory events in the Maplewood/South Orange area include “Coloring Juneteenth: A Collaborative Storytime” at 10 am at the Jefferson Elementary School and “A Celebration of Freedom” at the Durand-Hedden House & Garden, which will feature performance art and re-enactments. Community organizations have also decorated the streets of Maplewood with mounted banners displaying poems by world-renowned and local black writers, and you will be able to hear BLM poems spoken at various spots throughout the city.

From 10 am-2 pm, hang out at the Perkins Center for the Arts and enjoy live music, vendors, and artists while educating yourself with the help of historians and live speakers.

The Newark Freedom Family Festival will begin at noon and is set to feature guest speakers, performances, book signings, and more. There will also be a Juneteenth Rally to Say the Word: Reparations beginning at the Lincoln Memorial at 12 pm— participants will march to the Newark City Hall, where they will rally again.

New Brunswick
Juneteenth celebrations will take place on June 17 at 3 pm and June 19 at 11:30 am, the former involving the unveiling of a mural at the intersection of George Street, Liberty Street, and Livingston Street and culminating with the raising of the Juneteenth flag. Festivities on the 19th will be virtual.

Neptune Township
Neptune is kicking off its Juneteenth Celebration a day early with an 8-10:30 pm showing of Green Book (and short video on the history of the holiday) at the Midtown Commons Park. Just make sure you head back to the park between 11 am and 1 pm on Saturday to enjoy entertainment, speakers, snacks, and free T-shirts/flags at the city’s Juneteenth Kick Off Celebration!

Beginning at 10 am, Councilwoman Adrienne Wooton will be hosting a festival at Colgate Park. Stop by to check out the food, drinks, and vendors. Plus, a day of skating will begin at 11 am, with a skate contest for participants under 16 and skate clinics for enthusiasts of all ages.

The Plainfield Freedom Juneteenth Celebration will be a chance to enjoy culture, history, and art from 2-6 pm at the Eastside Dance Project Studio. There will be food, vendors, and entertainment!

Scotch Plains
The “Roots and Wings” Juneteenth Celebration is set to begin at 1 pm and will include events such as a stroll in Jerseyland Park, 1-Act Play, and mini-golf.

The Smoke N’ Ashes cigar lounge and Verifried Foods will host a Juneteenth celebration of freedom at 200 Walraven Dr. from 1-6 pm.

The Juneteenth Arts Festival will celebrate African-Americans’ contributions to American history, art, and culture from 11 am-6 pm with food, vendors, entertainments, giveaways, and more!

The Cape May County NAACP has organized a Juneteenth Festival, which will include speakers, vendors, and games. The festival will take place at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center on Main Street in Whitesboro and is set to begin at 1 pm, although there will also be a basketball tournament at 6 pm.

From 12-4 pm, Rowan College will be hosting a free and public celebration at Millcreek Park.

Virtual events

Amistad Center for Art & Culture
Starting at 6:30 pm the 2020 Juneteenth Virtual Juneteenth Celebration includes music, song, art, celebration, and the presentation of the Spirit of Juneteenth Awards, as well as performances from DJs Ronn P and Dane following the main event..

The National Museum of African American History and Culture
Take a tour through the museum’s Slavery and Freedom exhibition with founding director Lonnie Bunch III.

Newark Museum
Virtual programming from the Newark Museum of Art will include a discussion about George Floyd and a dance masterclass.


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