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  • Asheville Citizen-Times

    When is Juneteenth? What is Juneteenth? Here's why we celebrate, plus events in Asheville

    By Iris Seaton, Asheville Citizen Times,


    In June, the United States will celebrate the date aptly described as our country’s second independence day by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

    President Joe Biden designated Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2021, but the holiday itself has been celebrated for more than a century and a half.

    Here's what you need to know about the nation's newest federal holiday, including when it is and the meaning behind the occasion.

    When is Juneteenth 2024?

    The annual Juneteenth holiday will be celebrated this year on Wednesday, June 19, 2024.

    What is Juneteenth?

    Juneteenth commemorates the final end of slavery in Confederate states just after the end of the Civil War.

    The Emancipation Proclamation officially freed all enslaved African American people in the Confederate states in 1863, it was not enforced in areas still under Confederate control for some time, according to Britannica. The Civil War ended in April 1865, and on June 19 of the same year, Union soldiers delivered the message in Galveston, Texas, that the war was over and the Emancipation Proclamation was now enforceable.

    Celebrations took place the next year primarily in Texas, and gradually spread to other states. Today, celebrations often include prayer and religious services, speeches, educational events, family gatherings and picnics, and festivals with music, food and dancing.

    Why is June 19 a federal holiday?

    Though it has long been celebrated in Black communities, Juneteenth became a federal holiday when Biden signed a bill on June 17, 2021.

    At the the signing of the 2021 Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, Biden called the occasion a "day of profound weight and profound power."

    "Juneteenth marks both the long, hard night of slavery and subjugation, and a promise of a brighter morning to come," Biden said.

    What's closed on Juneteenth?

    As the date is now designated a federal holiday, the postal service and the stock market will be closed for Juneteenth.

    What's open on Juneteenth?

    Most major retailers will remain open, like Walmart and Target, as they did in 2023.

    Target does recognize Juneteenth as a company holiday, however, with eligible employees offered the option of taking the day off with full pay, or getting paid time and a half for working that day.

    Juneteenth events in Asheville

    There are a number of Juneteenth events in Asheville, with opportunities to learn, honor and celebrate. Here are a few options:

    • Juneteenth Jam & Cookout at the Getaway River Bar - From 6-11 p.m. on June 19, honor Asheville's BIPOC community and independence with 103.3 Asheville FM Live Sessions and Guest Speaker London Newton, as well as drink specials to celebrate the occasion.
    • The MLK Association of Asheville and Buncombe County has several events planned including the noon-1:30 p.m. Lunch and Learn Series on June 17-21; A Distinguished Speaker presentation and reception featuring Mary D. Williams at noon June 19 at Black Wall Street, 8 River Arts Place; and a Juneteenth Gala on at 7 p.m. June 20 at Stephens-Lee Center, 30 George Washington Carver Ave., with refreshments, a live band with dancing and a silent auction with items from local artists of color and more.
    • Juneteenth on the Block at the YMI Cultural Center - At 11 a.m. on June 19, the all-day "Juneteenth on the Block" celebration will be held, with various pop-in events hosted throughout the day. Festivities will culminate in an evening gathering at The Foundry’s Workshop Lounge with refreshments and fellowship. where we will enjoy heavy hors d'oeuvres, drinks, and fellowship. LEAF Global Arts, PennyCup Coffee, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Noir Collective, Asheville Crafted Edge, JD Ellison & Company and more will be featured.
    • Downtown After 5: Juneteenth on North Lexington Avenue - From 5-9:30 p.m. on June 21, the Downtown After 5 concert series will celebrate Juneteenth with soul and R&B artist Lyric opening for New Orleans soul, blues and R&B band Sierra Green & the Giants.

    Iris Seaton is the trending news reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach her at

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