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This weekend marks just the second year that Juneteenth has been observed as a federal holiday, but the celebration is far from new. The holiday commemorates the day in 1865, when enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas, finally received word that they were free. The date has long been celebrated, particularly in Black communities, often in the spirit of the Fourth of July, an acknowledgement that large segments of the population were included in the colonists declaration of freedom from tyranny.

However, Juneteenth has often been overlooked and omitted from discussions of important American holidays. In recent years, it has become more widely known and, last year, Pres. Joe Biden declared it a national holiday, bringing the day a prominence and recognition it has long deserved.

If you’re interested in observing this year, North shore communities and institutions are serving up plenty of opportunities to contemplate and celebrate.

Flag raisings, various towns | June 15-23

Cities and towns across the North shore including Wakefield, Everett, Swampscott, Beverly, Gloucester, Salem, Melrose, Wenham, and Peabody are acknowledging Juneteenth with events raising the holiday’s official flag. Many of these events will include readings and comments by public officials. The North Shore Juneteenth Association has a full list of flag-raising events on its website.

Juneteenth flag poster | Photograph courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum

Miss Juneteenth, The Cabot, Beverly | June 16, 6:30 p.m.

The Cabot will be screening the 2020 film Miss Juneteenth, which follows a single mom and former teen beauty queen who enters her daughter into the local Miss Juneteenth pageant, hoping she can win a scholarship that will help her improve her chances in life. The event is free, but registration is required.

Juneteenth Storytime, Sawyer Free Library, Gloucester | June 18, 10:30-11:15 a.m.

After the flag-raising across the street at Gloucester city hall, settle in to the amphitheater outside the library as children’s librarian Christy Rosso shares the history and meaning of Juneteenth through stories from the library’s collection. Details on the library website.

JUNEteenth JAMboree, Chianti, Beverly | June 18, 5-10 p.m.

An evening of celebration featuring a soul food buffet and live music featuring Amadee Castenell, Henley Douglas, Jr. & Friends. Tickets are $45 and available online.

Quilt by Doris Elizabeth Prouty | Photograph courtesy of Cape Ann Museum

Gloucester Juneteenth Festival, Cape Ann Museum Green, Gloucester | June 19, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Presented by the North Shore Juneteenth Association and the Cape Ann Museum, the festival will feature readings of the work of Frederick Douglass, a yoga class, face painting, lawn games, flag-making, and XX. In the historic Ellery house, quilts by Black Gloucester artist Doris Elizabeth Prouty will be on display, and in the museum building, visitors can view an installation by two contemporary artists, inspired by Prouty’s work. Details available at the Cape Ann Museum website.

Rising Up and Moving Forward, Frederick Douglass Memorial Park and Lynn Museum Park, Lynn | June 19, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Visit the festival, put on by North Shore Juneteenth Association, Inc. and Lynn Museum/LynnArts, for music, food, crafts, and family activities, then head into the museum to view the exhibit “Untold Stories: A History of Black People in Lynn,” before it closes on July 1.

Juneteenth Block Party, Lowell | June 19, 5-10 p.m.

Merrimack Valley Black and Brown Voices will be hosting its third annual Juneteenth block party, featuring live music, poets and other performers, food and drinks, kids activities, and plenty of community. Details available at

Juneteenth Tiptoe Through the Tombstones: Black Newburyporters, Newburyport | June 19, 10-11:30 a.m.

On this guided tour through Newburyport’s historic Highland Cemetery, local historian Ghlee Woodworth will share stories of Newburyport’s once-thriving Black community and explain what is happening today to better share and commemorate their lives. Tickets available online.

Juneteenth flag posters drop-in art event, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem | June 19 and 20, 1-3 p.m.

Visit the museum’s artmaking Create Space to make your own flag poster celebrating Juneteenth. Activity is open to the public and included with museum admission. More information available at