Celebrating Juneteenth in Philly
Celebrating Juneteenth in Philly
Philadelphia is always a popular destination in July, but what about June? Coming to Philadelphia early is a great way to experience Juneteenth. Started as a way to celebrate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in Texas on June 19th, 1865, Juneteenth today honors African American culture and the centuries-long fight for freedom and equality. Here in Philadelphia, it’s an opportunity to check out some of the diverse neighborhoods and traditions our city has to offer. If you are looking for some educational and inspirational activities to honor Juneteenth, here are a few of our top picks:
On the second Sunday in June, the Odunde Festival transforms a portion of South Street into the largest African American street festival in the Eastern US. A week full of fun activities is capped with a cultural market and live music event on Sunday, June 9th from 10am to 8pm, celebrating African, Caribbean and Brazilian cultures. A Yoruba tradition to welcome the coming year, Odunde is a way for Africanized peoples to connect and explore the African Diaspora in Philadelphia. For a full map of the festival, click here.
Historic Germantown combines the charm of colonial American history with the richness of a secluded, woodsy suburb. Be sure to stop by the Johnson House, Philadelphia’s only surviving Underground Railroad Station, located at the corner of Germantown Avenue and Washington Lane. On Saturday, June 15th, the House will host Philadelphia’s 13th annual Juneteenth Festival with a cultural marketplace, children’s village, music, food, and a beer garden. During the festival, there will be two free performances of The Slave Narratives: 400 Years of Resistance, presented by the Grounded Theater Company. While you’re there, make sure to visit the Concord Schoolhouse and Upper Burying Ground, located across the street.
Note: The Johnson House is located at 6306 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia PA 19144.
Just up Germantown Avenue on Cliveden Street, you’ll find the Benjamin Chew House (“the Cliveden”). The site of one of the Revolutionary War’s bloodiest battles, the house gives us an unparalleled view of life in late 18th century. From June 12th to June 15th, the Cliveden will welcome back their signature dramatic event, “Liberty to Go to See.” Based upon the lives of indentured and enslaved workers from 1760s through the 1860s, “Liberty to Go to See” uses the Cliveden as a stage, showing us how race and class shaped the lives of the house’s inhabitants. (Note: The Cliveden is located at 6401 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia PA 19144.)
Looking for a more modern side of Philly? Join the Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade and Festival as they march down the historic 52nd Street business corridor on June 22nd. Starting at noon at the corner of 52nd and Jefferson Streets, the parade celebrates Kujichagulia (Swahili for self-determination). Honoring modern figures in African American culture, this year’s festival will rename a portion of 52nd Street to Muhammad Ali Way. The parade concludes at Malcolm X Park, on 52nd and Pine streets. From 1 to 7pm, stay in the park for the music fest! (Note: The Parade starts at 5200 West Jefferson St, Philadelphia PA 19131.)
During the entire month of June, don’t forget to visit the museums located in Old City. Just a 10-minute walk northwest of Independence Hall, the African American Museum in Philadelphia traces the history of African Americans in Philadelphia with their “Audacious Freedom” exhibit. The museum also highlights contemporary artists of the African Diaspora through their changing exhibits. The National Constitution Center showcases the evolution and challenges of the US Constitution, and the changing nature of our civil rights. Check out their new permanent exhibit, “Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality”, where you can see original artifacts like the first copies of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. On June 19th, the Center will premiere its new stage show, FOURTEEN: A Theatrical Performance, which explores the 14th Amendment through the dramatic reading of original Civil War letters and texts. FOURTEEN runs through August 10th.
Walking 10 minutes south of Independence Hall will take you to Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Mother Bethel is the founding congregation of the international AME Church, with the congregation dating back to 1794. Mother Bethel’s current building dates to 1890, making it the oldest church under continuous African American ownership in the US. Visit the church’s museum to learn the history of Richard Allen and the Free African Society. To schedule a visit, click here.
Whether you’re walking through the tree-lined streets of Germantown or the Belgian Block roads of Old City, there’s always something to learn in America’s historic home.