National Museum of African American History and Culture Offers Juneteenth Programming Sure To Tantalize the Senses

May 16, 2023
News Release
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Juneteenth Poster

To celebrate the day when more than 200,000 enslaved African Americans in Confederate states were declared free June 19, 1865, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will host a variety of events and programs highlighting Juneteenth all month long. Also known as Freedom Day, the Juneteenth holiday represents a time to gather with family and community, honor the present and reflect on shared history and tradition. This year’s theme is Senses of Freedom: Exploring the Tastes, Sounds and Experiences of an African American Celebration. Detailed information about the holiday and the museum’s programming and educational resources can be found on its award-winning Juneteenth webpage.

“Juneteenth is a moment of liberation and jubilation, but it is also a moment where we lament,” said Michelle D. Commander, NMAAHC’s deputy director and a scholar of slavery and memory. “As we celebrate the second anniversary of the Juneteenth federal holiday, we reflect on what independence means and recognize that the intolerance that sustained slavery resonates in our contemporary society. Yet, the resilience of the Black community abounds, continuing to make a way out of no way, overcoming trials and celebrating triumphs while honoring the place and price of freedom.”  

Visitors can join the museum’s Juneteenth festivities—spanning the entire month of June—and engage with the rich history of Freedom Day. Each week, the museum will explore the origins of Juneteenth, the ways newly emancipated African Americans defined themselves, the symbols of resilience and joy embraced across the African diaspora and the transformative power of music and the ways to celebrate Juneteenth today.

On June 17, the second anniversary of Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday, the museum will host activities, performances, tastings and discussions sure to tantalize the senses. In addition to Juneteenth programming, the museum will also offer programming highlighting Afrofuturism. June is also Black Music Month so there will be an emphasis on music, particularly during the fourth week of observing Juneteenth, Sounds of Freedom.

Merchandise commemorating the Juneteenth holiday and Afrofuturism is available in the museum store and website; visitors to the site can choose from shirts, mugs and more.

June Programming Schedule

NMAAHC Kids Learning Together: Black Birders Week

Friday, June 2; 11 a.m.–noon

During this virtual program, participants can meet a Black birder and learn all about migratory birds, and get to know migratory birds from the Bird House at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo with a painting project. This program is free, but registration is required.

Black Birders Week Bird Walk at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Saturday, June 3; 10 a.m.–11:30 a.m.
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

In one of the best bird-watching spots in the District, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, participants can go on a special bird walk. It is open to everyone of all ages and dedicated to Black Birders Week to raise awareness about the ways African Americans engage with nature and to celebrate, uplift and support their appreciation for birds. Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History are supporting this event. This program is free, but registration is required.

Historically Speaking: Musical Crossroads: Stories Behind the Objects of African American Music

Tuesday, June 6; 7 p.m.–8 p.m.
Concourse, Oprah Winfrey Theater and Virtual

Dwandalyn R. Reece, NMAAHC’s associate director of humanities, and Krystal Klingenberg, the music curator for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, will discuss how objects can expand the understanding of the ways African American music-making continues to shape and influence society. These stories will be accompanied by live music. This event will be held in the Oprah Winfrey Theater and streamed on all NMAAAHC streaming platforms. This program is free, but registration is required.

NMAAHC Live!: An Afrofuturism Concert with Dawn Richard

Friday, June 9; 7:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m.
Heritage Hall

New Orleans musician, multimedia artist, animator and entrepreneur Dawn Richard will discuss her career and creative influences with Angela Tate, NMAAHC’s women’s history curator before performing live. This event will be held in Heritage Hall. This program is free, but registration is required.

National History Day at the NMAAHC Student Documentary Showcase

Wednesday, June 14; 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Oprah Winfrey Theater

Visitors can explore and understand history through the lens of the next generation of historians and filmmakers by watching student documentaries created for the National History Day competition. This event is free to the public with advanced or same-day museum passes for Wednesday, June 14. 

History Alive!: USCT: Juneteenth: What It Means, and Why We Celebrate

Saturday, June 17; 11 a.m.–1:30 p.m.
Program meets at C3/Landing Area 1

Hear real stories about Blacks in the military and explore themes of freedom, self-determination, citizenship, valor and much more.  Two years, five months, and 19 days after the Emancipation Proclamation, Blacks in Galveston, Texas, found out about President Abraham Lincoln’s order. Visitors will learn what it meant, and why we celebrated it today. The event is free; Each 30-minute performance starts at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Free, no registration required.

Juneteenth Community Day

Saturday, June 17; 11 a.m.–3 p.m.  
Various locations throughout the museum

Visitors can celebrate the history, art and culture of Juneteenth at NMAAHC with several wonderful events at the annual Community Day. They can explore the gifts of gardening and the culinary arts, listen to stories and music and discover an inner artist with crafts for all ages. They can visit the museum’s galleries, grounds and Sweet Home Café to create memories and learn more about this historic holiday with indoor and outdoor programming. All programs are free, but registration is required for indoor activities. Registration permits entry to events at the museum throughout the day.

  • Outdoor activities: A guided tour focused on the museum’s design and architecture; a walk through the museum’s planting areas and arbors; a seed art activity; an opportunity to learn from and jam with drummers in a drum circle; a hands-on lesson about three plants from Africa—okra, hibiscus and fish pepper; and folktales from the Africa and the African diaspora. Tickets are not required to participate in outdoor activities.
  • Indoor activities: The sounds of Juneteenth with performances by musician and actor Rex Carnegie, who has hosted the Smithsonian Channel’s Seriously Amazing Objects; a crafts activities to create Juneteenth-inspired fans and make bracelets reflecting Juneteenth’s palette during a jewelry-making workshop.

A Seat at the Table: Heritage Rooted in the Earth

Saturday, June 17; 6:45 p.m.–9:15 p.m.
Heritage Hall

NMAAHC is collaborating with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History to commemorate Juneteenth in a special edition of its A Seat at the Table program. Moderated by Julianne Malveaux, the dinner and discussion will focus on the connections between contemporary gardening and other subsistence practices documented by renowned scientist George Washington Carver, and the progress and struggles of Black farmers and fishers who have maintained property and businesses following Emancipation. The panelists will be Che Axum, director of the Center of Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education at the University of the District of Columbia; Imani Black, founder and president of Minorities In Aquaculture; and Angie and June Provost, owners of Provost Farm LLC. The program will feature a Juneteenth-inspired menu with foods grown, caught or prepared by local Black cultivators and businesses. This program was produced with support from Atlantic Philanthropies. Tickets are required. The cost is $40.

Through the African American Lens: Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project

Sunday, June 18; 2 p.m.
Oprah Winfrey Theater and Virtual (panel discussion only)

This is the Washington, D.C., premiere of the film Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, which showcases the enduring influence of one of America’s greatest living artists and social commentators. The film will be followed by a moderated panel discussion featuring Nikki Giovanni in conversation with directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson. This event will be held in the Oprah Winfrey Theater. The panel discussion will be livestreamed starting at 3:30 p.m. This program is free, but registration is required.

About the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has welcomed more than 9 million visitors. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit or follow @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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