Celebrating Juneteenth Day in Milwaukee


Here in Milwaukee, the City of Festivals, there is a celebration of freedom that takes place in June that you absolutely MUST know about. Juneteenth. Let’s talk about what Juneteenth is and why you should get excited to celebrate Juneteenth Day!

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — Black History is Human History. Black History does not just belong in one particular month on the calendar, but should be taught, discussed, celebrated, and shared every week of the year and Juneteenth Day provides a unique opportunity to create a conversation with our friends, family, and children about slavery and to celebrate freedom.

The History of Juneteenth Day

Juneteenth is also known as Freedom Day, celebrating when the last slaves were finally freed during the Civil War. The executive order of President Abraham Lincoln, signed on September 22, 1862, declared that all slaves were to be freed, however, this proclamation only applied to the states in the Confederate States of America. Many of the state governments in Union-held regions had already outlawed slavery and as the Union armies began to overtake Confederate-held areas, the people being held as property were “set free.” Although the executive order immediately freed the approximately 3 million people who were considered to be property, it was not until the victorious Union army physically reached them that they were released.

Juneteenth Day is celebrated on June 19th to commemorate when Union Soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 (yes, nearly three years after the Emancipation Proclamation) not only with news the war had ended but with enough troops to occupy the area and free the last remaining slaves being held.

Why Does Juneteenth Matter?

We think our friends over at Wine Country Moms Blog put it perfectly:

Juneteenth was an historic moment for Black people in the United States, and remains a cause for celebration today. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their native languages, cultures, religions, songs, foods, and family histories. Millions more, born into slavery, created a new culture in a foreign country.

Juneteenth is the first Black-centric holiday in America, ever. It is not celebrating so much the end of slavery, but the birth of Black America. Juneteenth recognizes survival, the power of knowledge, and the emergence of African Americanism. Juneteenth is not, however, a holiday for only Black people. All Americans can celebrate Juneteenth, ensuring that the lessons learned and struggles overcome are never forgotten.

As fellow contributor LaShonda puts it:

“While most of America awaits the Fourth of July holiday to celebrate the independence of our country, the date holds little significance for generations of Black Americans, born of enslaved people in our country. Knowledge of history might say, June 19, 1865, is a more true representation of freedom in the history of our country.

Growing up in Milwaukee, Juneteenth was a sign that summer was here in the black community. Most do not know, next to Galveston, TX, Milwaukee historically held one of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the country. This celebration was fully equipped with a weekend-long festival, parade, and Miss Juneteenth scholarship pageant. It was like a city-wide family reunion, full of music, laughter, and community – with all of the aunties and uncles in attendance.

While this was one of the many signs of summer I anticipated growing up, I am sure I was not alone in my inability to fully appreciate the importance of this day. As I have grown older, with the continued spotlight on the injustices of the Black American experience, I have found a renewed appreciation for and desire to share the importance of this day with my family. As someone who has a bloodline from Africa (without the memory) and in America (without the privilege), I feel the true appreciation for a day representative of freedom in this country is exemplified in the holiday and celebration of Juneteenth.”

Celebrating Juneteenth Day in Milwaukee

Celebrate freedom, history, culture, and have a ton of fun by celebrating Juneteeth Day in the Milwaukee area.

The Annual Juneteenth Day Festival

The Fiftieth Annual Juneteenth Day Festival will take place on Saturday, June 19, 2021. 

To mark its 50th anniversary, Milwaukee’s Juneteenth Day Parade and Celebration is set to take place Saturday, June 19. The parade will start at 8 a.m. from 14th and Atkinson and will travel to Burleigh and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. 

The 2021 Juneteenth Parade will be broadcast live on Milwaukee’s TMJ4. The station is also producing historical and educational pieces to run during the 8-10 a.m. broadcast on June 19.

Juneteenth Day commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. The world-wide event, dating back to June 1865, began when the Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the war had ended and the enslaved were now free. The Juneteenth Day Celebration in Milwaukee is among the oldest and longest-running such parades in the nation.

Opening Ceremonies, signaling the start of the festival, will kick off at 9:30 am. with festivities running along King Drive, between Burleigh and North Avenue. All activities will end by 4 p.m.  

To keep community residents safe, Northcott Neighborhood House (NNH), the organizer of the Juneteenth Day Celebrations, made the decision to cancel last year’s event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This year, NNH is working with its health partners, Milwaukee Health Department, and the Milwaukee Heritage Health Center, to set safety standards as well as follow the guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control.  

All attendees will be required to wear face masks. Volunteers will be handing out free masks to those who need them. Anyone who is not wearing a mask will be asked to leave by NNH security.

Follow all updates on the Milwaukee Juneteenth Day Festival HERE

Burlington’s Second Annual Juneteenth Rally 

The Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism (BCDR) will host Burlington’s 2nd Annual Juneteenth Rally at Echo Lake Park from 2 pm to 8 pm. This FREE family-friendly event will feature live music, speakers, dance performances, comedy, kids’ games, raffles, and SO MUCH MORE! 

Plus, delicious food by Big Daddy’s BBQ & Soul Food, including rib tips, spare ribs, pulled pork, brats, corn, baked beans, and coleslaw.

Check their Facebook event for the complete lineup of performers. 

Juneteenth Group Ride 

Join the DreamBikes Milwaukee staff at 8:30 am in a group ride to Sherman Phoenix to meet up at their Bike Your Block ride! 

We’ll be providing ride support along the way and then hanging out afterward at their block party. 

Make sure to register for the event in advance and get a free tshirt!

Juneteenth Events at Alice’s Garden

Join us as we celebrate the self-determination and liberation of Black people in this country.  2136 N 21st Street, Milwaukee, WI 53205

Mandela’s Garden–12:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Alice’s Garden Urban Farm is honored to be a partner with the Milwaukee Public Museum for Mandela: The Official Exhibition.  In honor of the life and work of Nelson Mandela, we will plant a special community garden plot, Mandela’s Garden.  While unjustly incarcerated, Mr. Mandela planted a garden.

We will plant this garden as part of our Juneteenth Day activities.  We welcome you to join us in planting this special garden plot.  Please, bring a pair of garden gloves, your favorite hand tools (if you have any, we also have tools), and help us plant…and remember this act of resistance.

Juneteenth Paint Night-5:00 pm

Celebrate Juneteenth with us at Alice’s Garden! This is an in-person event, masks are required. Limited seating available.

Purchase your ticket here

Freedom Farmers Book Signing with Dr. Monica White 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Join us in the garden for this special Juneteenth Day conversation and book signing!

Freedom Farmers expands the historical narrative of the black freedom struggle to embrace the work, roles, and contributions of southern black farmers and the organizations they formed. Whereas existing scholarship generally views agriculture as a site of oppression and exploitation of black people, this book reveals agriculture as a site of resistance and provides a historical foundation that adds meaning and context to current conversations around the resurgence of food justice/sovereignty movements in urban spaces like Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, and New Orleans.

Juneteenth Celebration w/ Lt. Gov. Barnes & Professor Milton F. Dockery

Join the African-American Roundtable of Leaders via Zoom to celebrate Juneteenth! Details available on the Facebook event page. 

Create Art

Join local artist Vedale Hill to paint the Juneteenth Day flag in the middle of the intersection of King Dr. and Locust. Stop anytime to leave your mark.

Learn about Juneteenth Day and Celebrate with Your Family

Even though the festival itself won’t be able to happen this year, there are plenty of ways you and your family can commemorate this special day and use it as an opportunity to educate and celebrate.

  • Support Black-Owned Businesses: Order food from a local black-owned restaurant with curbside pickup or delivery to maintain social distance. Obviously, many businesses will be opening up at differing paces and with a variety of policies in place to keep everyone safe, so always check in with the business directly first to make sure they are open and in what capacity. FIND YOUR FAVORITES HERE!
  • Read Books that go into the History of Juneteenth: Have young kids who want to learn more about Juneteenth? Here’s a list of four children’s books about Juneteenth that you and your kids can read together. Want to read more from black authors about the history that Juneteenth is a part of? Check out this Juneteenth Reading List from Penguin Random House.
  • Attend the Safe & Sound and Marquette University 2nd Annual “Virtual Takeover” Juneteenth event: This event will take place entirely on Zoom. Keep an eye on this page for more details and updates as they become available. The event will be celebrating the history, culture and freedom through arts like music, poetry, and dance.
  • Explore the Black Holocaust Museum: Even in times of social distancing, you can explore the virtual galleries of America’s Black Holocaust Museum, located right here in Milwaukee.
  • Listen to the Bridge the Divide Podcast: The monthly in-person meetings at the Cedarburg library may be on hold for the time being, but you can listen to the podcast and engage in essential conversations about race and social justice.

Will you be celebrating Juneteenth? We would love to hear your plans!




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