Each year in mid-June, communities across the U.S. celebrate Juneteenth–a commemoration of the abolition of slavery in America. Block parties, festivals and performances are the norm for celebrating in New Orleans, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, traditional events have had to adjust. While Juneteenth celebrations have gone virtual this year, there are still plenty of historic sites to visit on your own in New Orleans. Here’s how to commemorate Juneteenth in New Orleans.
Throughout New Orleans, individuals have gone through great lengths to preserve and share the stories of the countless enslaved African men, women and children. There are a number of places where visitors can learn more about the Transatlantic Slave Trade, New Orleans’ connection to it and the narratives of the brave individuals who fought against it.
Located just outside of the French Quarter in Tremé, Congo Square was a gathering place for slaves and free people of color throughout the 19th century, used for meetings, open markets and celebrations of African culture, particularly music. Today, the square is home to various festivals throughout the year but can be visited at any time for an enriching experience. Visit Congo Square and you’ll find sculptures, historical markers for learning more and the greenspace of adjacent Armstrong Park.
Located roughly 45 minutes outside of metro New Orleans, a visit to the Whitney Plantation is well worth the trip. This is the only plantation museum in Louisiana with a direct focus on slavery. The tour is told from the perspective of enslaved Africans who lived and worked here in Louisiana. Whitney Plantation reopens on Juneteenth after being closed for months due to coronavirus restrictions.
Historic avenues, public parks and even narrow streams and rivers have a deep history behind them. Download the official New Orleans Slave Trade Marker here and begin a personal in-app audio tour of some of New Orleans’ most historic sites connected to the slave trade.
Nestled right off Esplanade Ridge in Tremé, Bayou Road is the oldest road in New Orleans and serves a hub for black-owned businesses. Currently, Community Book Center, which focuses on African books, art and music, is open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Stop in to browse the collection and pick up a free coloring book courtesy of Studio BE. Visit Bayou Road for dining, shopping and more.
Open for Juneteenth and Saturday, June 20 only, Studio BE is the brainchild of New Orleans artist Brandan “Bmike” Odums, whose work focuses on the Black community and the unsung heroes of New Orleans. Visit the gallery for a self-guided tour. Prints, t-shirts and collectibles will be available for purchase in his on-site shop. Facemasks and reservations are required. Book online here.
Friday evening at 6:30 p.m., stop by the labyrinth in Audubon Park for a special Juneteenth performance from New Orleans School of Ballet and Magnolia Dance & Co. The outdoor performance will commemorate Black lives lost and celebrate Black beauty, love, strength and grace. The performance is free, and donations are accepted.
Dedicated to sharing stories referencing the social & cultural importance of America's ethnic & racial history, the African Diaspora and civil rights, the work of Amistad Research Center is accessible online. Though the center remains closed for the time being, digital archives, including articles and video interviews, are available on Amistad’s website and Facebook page.
While Ashé is currently closed to visitors, you can still celebrate Juneteenth with them virtually. Juneteenth Celebration: Juan Malo — Resistance, Revolution, Resilience celebrates Juan Malo, the leader of nearly fifty Maroon (Africans who escaped enslavement) communities in New Orleans long before the days of the Emancipation Proclamation. Tune in for a virtual drum circle, spoken word, dance and messages of resilience, resistance and revolution. The event takes place from 9-11 a.m. on Ashé’s Instagram page.
Tune into Newcomb’s Facebook page at 4 p.m. on Juneteenth for a panel discussion and conversation on Representation, Legacy and the Movement for Black Lives. Spirit McIntyre will moderate a panel discussion with Wendi Cooper, Milan Nicole Sherry and Syrita Steib about everything from 'Is the Movement For Black Lives representing you?' to 'What will be your legacy?' as the conversation explores the context of social justice in New Orleans.
From the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy, “Embrace the Culture” is a series of free programming that supports local artists. Enjoy virtual Juneteenth events, including music performances and more. See here for more information.
The Center for Equity, Justice & the Human Spirit from Xavier University of Louisiana presents: Juneteenth — The Joy and the Wound: Witnessing America, Race, and Righteous Rage. Panelists from the ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League, Loyola University and the Jesuit Social Research Institute will participate in a discussion on race/ race relations in America. Register here.
While the New Orleans Museum of Art remains closed, their website features a collection of photography, conversations and works that shine a light on racial equity and social justice. In honor of Juneteenth, the nearby Sydney & Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden will have free admission from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Now that the O is back open, you can visit to view their latest exhibits, one of which includes What Music is Within: Black Abstraction from the Permanent Collection. With work that spans almost five decades, this exhibition is a collection of African American art in the South that includes contributions from Xavier University. Reserve your visit online.
New Orleans is a melting pot for culture, which includes a diverse mix of restaurants, shops and businesses throughout the city. Support black-owned businesses the next time you’re in need of a good meal with our black-owned restaurants list. Shop the art, clothing and books of black-owned shops here. Explore the attractions, accommodations and nightlife of black-owned businesses throughout the city.
There are many more places and resources to visit to learn more about the slave trade and commemorate Juneteenth. Visit our history page for more inspiration.
*Editor’s Note: The tagged businesses remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information regarding what’s open, see here. For information on the city’s Phased Reopening Plan, see here.