America’s ‘Second Independence Day’: 11 Juneteenth celebrations in NC

America’s ‘Second Independence Day’: 11 Juneteenth celebrations in NC

A Juneteenth flag flies on a float during the 45th annual Juneteenth National Independence Day celebrations in Galveston, Texas, on June 15, 2024. Juneteenth falls on June 19 and has often been celebrated on the third Saturday in June, to mark the end of slavery in the US. (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP via Getty Images)

By Billy Ball

June 18, 2024

Juneteenth is a day of joy and celebration because it recognizes an important moment in the fight to end slavery in America. There are numerous Juneteenth celebrations in NC to honor it.

It took 900 days for President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to be enforced in Texas. 

That’s because, as the historian Ed Cotham explains, the Union army didn’t enter Texas—the westernmost Confederate state—until June 1865, about two months after Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered. The advance of the Union army had already freed many of the enslaved people in the South, but Texas, and its 250,000 or so enslaved people, had yet to recognize freedom.  

It probably wasn’t shouted from the rooftops by any Union generals, but it was published in every newspaper in the state or distributed on printed handbills. 

In North Carolina, freedom came sooner because the state was closer to the fighting, which is why Juneteenth began as a Texas celebration. Still, emancipation was an enormous moment in NC, which relied on its population of 300,000+ enslaved people for free labor. 

Read More: Our Juneteenth: When Emancipation Came to One of North Carolina’s Largest Plantations

These days, this day of freedom is celebrated across the United States, thanks to years of advocacy from people like Opal Lee, who’s recognized today as the “grandmother of Juneteenth.” President Biden’s 2021 signature on a bill officially made it a federal holiday, but the day was recognized long before then.

Scroll below for a rundown of some of NC’s Juneteenth celebrations this week. Most events are free. For a larger listing, check out this calendar from the NC African American Heritage Commission.

Wednesday

Kannapolis Juneteenth Community Celebration

Veterans Park

10 am – 5:30 pm

Expect music, food, and vendors.

 

Moore County Juneteenth Celebration 

Cardinal Park, Pinebluff

1 – 8 pm

Food trucks, swimming, fishing, music, and more. Supported by the Arts Council of Moore County and the NC Arts Council. 

 

Juneteenth Celebration in Burlington

May Memorial Library

12 – 2 pm

A lunch and presentation from the director of the African American Cultural Arts and History Center in Burlington. 

 

Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom

W.B. Wicker School, Sanford

6 pm

City of Sanford event featuring African drumming and dance, singing, and the winners of a local creative writing competition.

Thursday

Making a Way Out of No Way: The Stagville Memorial Project’s new digital exhibit

Durham downtown main library 

6:30 – 8:30 pm

*Registration required 

The local library celebrates “newly uncovered history,” with a keynote from Dr. Charles Johnson of North Carolina Central University, and info on The Stagville Memorial Project, which is dedicated to the memory of one of the area’s largest plantations with enslaved people. 

 

The Underground Railroad in eastern NC

Cullman Performance Hall

Tryon Palace in New Bern

7 – 8:30 pm

A presentation on the history of the local underground railroad from Leesa Jones, who founded the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum in Washington, NC. 

Friday

Juneteenth: In Song & Word

NC Museum of History, Raleigh

6:30 –  9 pm

*Free registration required

An evening of poetry and music, with performances by: Nnenna Freelon with Pierce Freelon, Shana Tucker, Freddy Greene “Street Genie”, The Martin Luther King, Jr. All-Children’s Choir, and more. 

 

Downtown After 5: Juneteenth

Downtown Asheville

5 pm – 9:30 pm

This city event is a collaboration with the MLK Foundation, featuring music from Sierra Green & the Giants, and Lyric. 

Saturday

Juneteenth Celebration in Graham

Bill Cooke Park

1- 5 pm

The City of Graham’s Parks & Rec Department will host, with food trucks, inflatables, community groups, family activities and games, and stage performances. 

 

Greenville Juneteenth Jamboree

Downtown Greenville Town Common

4 – 9:30 pm

Live music, food, Black vendor fair, bounce houses, and fireworks, as well as free guided tour of the Greenville-Pitt County African American Cultural Trail at noon, 1:30 pm, 3 pm, and 4:30 pm. 

Saturday, June 29

Juneteenth poetry workshop with NC Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green

Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington

11 am – 2 pm

Community poetry workshop with one of NC’s most decorated poets, including her poem, “This I Know For Sure,” which celebrates Juneteenth. All ages invited to join. 

Author

  • Billy Ball

    Billy Ball is Cardinal & Pine's senior community editor. He’s covered local, state and national politics, government, education, criminal justice, the environment and immigration in North Carolina for almost two decades, winning state, regional and national awards for his reporting and commentary.

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