Enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas, learned on June 19, 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, that slavery was officially over in America. Today, Juneteenth is celebrated nationwide with historical reenactments, African-inspired programming, music and dance performances, and so much more.
Philly offers many ways to celebrate Juneteenth, the annual commemoration of the end of slavery in America in 1865. For the third year in a row, the City of Philadelphia’s official Fourth of July celebration — known as Wawa Welcome America — includes Juneteenth events in partnership with The African American Museum in Philadelphia, kicking off a season of independence in Philadelphia starting on June 19 and continuing through July 4.
In addition, major festivals in West Philadelphia, Germantown and Chester County, as well as events at attractions and venues like Longwood Gardens, the Betsy Ross House and more, also offer robust programming to commemorate the anniversary. Read on for ways to celebrate Juneteenth in Greater Philadelphia in 2023.
Illuminated Fountain Performances: Freedom
Three nights a week from late May through October, Longwood Gardens lights up its spectacular fountains for special themed nighttime shows. Back for 2023, the Freedom programming — featuring music from Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Beyoncé, Curtis Mayfield and more — honors Juneteenth and highlights the themes of freedom, hope and strength.
Juneteenth Festival at the Johnson House Historic Site
When: Saturday, June 17, 2023 | Noon-7 p.m.
Historic Germantown celebrates Juneteenth during its 17th annual Juneteenth Festival. Hosted by the Johnson House Historic Site, the annual (and free!) fest celebrates the 158th anniversary of the Black emancipation from enslavement with joyful music performances, historical reenactments, community conversations, food trucks, a cultural marketplace and much more.
Philly’s First Juneteenth Mural: Unveiling & Dedication
When: Saturday, June 17, 2023 | 2 p.m.
The Germantown ArtHaus hosts an unveiling of Philadelphia’s very first official Juneteenth mural, Absolute Equality – Juneteenth. Designed by ArtHaus founder and Custom Arts Studio Creative Director Keisha Whatley (and painted by volunteers including nearly 400 high school students), the 1,100-square-foot mural faces the Johnson House Historic Site, an important stop on the Underground Railroad.
Storytime with Harriet Tubman at Christ Church
Historic Christ Church in Philadelphia by Dan Mall – Unsplash
When: Saturday, June 17, 2023 | 2-3 p.m.
Bring the littles to this special Juneteenth storytime outside historic Christ Church — performed by none other than Harriet Tubman herself. The event is free and tickets are required.
Juneteenth at Washington Crossing Historic Park
When: Saturday, June 17, 2023 | 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Bucks County’s Washington Crossing Historic Park hosts a slate of Freedom Day events with Juneteenth at Washington Crossing Historic Park, highlighting the contributions of Black soldiers during the American Revolution. The day kicks off at 3:30 p.m. at the Visitors Center with a lecture on the experience of Black soldiers from historian Noah Lewis and African American Museum of Bucks County President Linda Salley. The day wraps up at 5 p.m. with a jazz concert on the riverbank from Joyce Simpson & The Quake Band, during which reenactors share short presentations. Both events are free, but lectures require registration. Food vendors are available during the concert.
Freedom Market at NextFab
When: Sunday, June 18, 2023 | Noon-5 p.m.
Celebrate a day of culture and community at this indoor-outdoor shopping fest. The family-friendly event showcases handmade products by local vendors, pay-as-you-go food trucks, live music, raffles supporting Philly youth organizations and tons of events for kids — games, hands-on art activities, face painting and more. General admission is free.
Concert at the Betsy Ross House
When: Sunday, June 18, 2023 | 3 p.m.
Celebrate freedom at the Betsy Ross House with a powerful concert by the Philadelphia Heritage Chorale. Guest composer Ruth Naomi Floyd takes you through significant moments in Black history with poetry and expression, while the chorus music spans the solemn refrains of historic slave songs to the uplifting joy of gospel.
The ROOTS Art Show at Pentridge Station Pop Up
When: Sunday, June 18, 2023 | 6-11 p.m.
Experience a taste of Black art at this special Juneteenth art stroll in West Philly. Look for Black and African art showcases, outdoor vendors, live performances, food and drink (available for purchase at the Penridge Station beer garden), and more experiences to come. RSVP for free tickets, and any donations go toward supporting future art shows.
Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade & Festival
Downtown Philadelphia by Nick Fewings – Unsplash
When: Sunday, June 18, 2023
Commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, the Philadelphia Juneteenth Festival & Parade is one of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the country. The all-day event kicks off in West Philadelphia with a parade, performances and floats from noon to 2 p.m. After the parade, kids can join in the fun with a carnival, games, arts and crafts, and more at the Children’s Village. A music festival pumps up the crowd with a lineup featuring Fatman Scoop, Lil Mo and DJ Cupid from 3 to 7 p.m. And all throughout the day, a marketplace of over 250 Black- and Brown-owned businesses, vendors, nonprofits and Philly entrepreneurs line Malcolm X Park with treats, artwork, free food, yoga classes and more.
Where: Longwood Gardens, 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square; The Creamery, 401 Birch Street, Kennett Square; Lincoln University, 1570 Baltimore Pike
Chester County’s Voices Underground returns with a fresh list of Juneteenth events this year. This year’s lineup:
Fashioning Freedom at Longwood Gardens: This celebration of Black fashion and its role in American freedom features talks by the host of The Invisible Seam podcast Kimberly Jenkins, Grant BLVD founder Dr. Kimberly McGlonn and more, followed by a Black-curated fashion show and a music performance by Madelyn Brené (June 16, 2023).Juneteenth at The Creamery: Honor Juneteenth with a night of food and wine, including a talk about barbecue cooking and human connection by pitmaster Russ Whitfield, a wine tasting with a curated selection of Black-owned wines, and a live music performance by the local band Group Therapy (June 17, 2023).Freedom’s Table at Lincoln University: This barbecue feast — hosted by a prominent Black chef — celebrates freedom and reconciliation (June 18, 2023).
Liberation Rising: Juneteenth Block Party at The African American Museum in Philadelphia
When: Monday, June 19, 2023 | 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
This daylong block party outside of The African American Museum in Philadelphia features performances from legendary DJ Spinderella (of Salt-N-Pepa fame), a marketplace highlighting Black-owned businesses, food trucks, hands-on activities and free admission to the museum with online registration.
Wine & Arts Festival at Cherry Street Pier
When: Saturday, June 17, 2023 | 1-6 p.m.
The Women’s Empowerment Coalition is teaming up with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation to host Philly’s first-ever Juneteenth Wine & Arts Festival. Expect art exhibits, live musical performances, craft vendors and wine tastings by Black-owned wineries. General admission is free to the public, but you’ll need to buy tickets to try the wine.
Landmarks and Historical Attractions
Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia by Phillip Goldsberry – Unsplash
In addition to the events and celebrations planned during the annual holiday, Philadelphia is also home to significant landmarks and museums dedicated to African American history in the US. Some of these include The African American Museum in Philadelphia, Underground Railroad Museum at Belmont Mansion, Historic Fair Hill, Johnson House Historic Site, the Lest We Forget Museum of Slavery, and The President’s House. Philadelphia has a long list of museums, historical landmarks, churches, art galleries and public spaces exploring Black history and culture.
Many of the historic homes and museums do have special programming during the month, too. The historic Hatfield House in East Fairmount Park hosts an annual outdoor Juneteenth party with live jazz music, a DJ, games, giveaways and plenty of activities for kids. Stop by for water ice and pretzels or step inside the impressive house to see the new photo exhibit, Healing Through the Land: Black Faces in Green Spaces.
Explore the lesser-known Black history of South Coventry — at the border of Chester County and Montgomery County — with two historic presentations examining the community roots of the Black ironworkers of Coventry and the preservation efforts of the Friends of the African Union Church congregation. The event is free to attend, but donations are welcome.
Visit the National Constitution Center (free admission) on Juneteenth and enjoy special tours of the Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality exhibit, as well as additional programming highlighting Reconstruction-era freedom fighters like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and more. Free Juneteenth tickets also include access to the rest of the center’s permanent offerings.
Additionally, at the Historical Society of Philadelphia, visitors this year can get a crash course on Juneteenth and why we celebrate it with a community event and documentary film screening. Juneteenth: Exploring Freedom’s Stories examines America’s link between freedom and citizenship and, following the film, historians share stories about Juneteenth’s recognition in Philly and discuss how local groups have expanded the narrative of Black freedom. Also on display: historic documents and prints from the Black community of pre-Civil War Philadelphia.