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UK, Local Communities Invited to Celebrate Juneteenth

by Jenny Wells-Hosley

This week, the University of Kentucky and surrounding communities will celebrate Juneteenth — the federal holiday that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans — with a variety of community events.

While the Emancipation Proclamation was issued Jan. 1, 1863, declaring more than three million slaves living in the Confederate states free, it was not until Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, two years later, on June 19, 1865, that the last enslaved U.S. populations were informed of the proclamation. Since then, the date has served as a symbol for freedom and celebration for Black communities. This year marks the second time Juneteenth will be observed as a federal holiday in the U.S., as well as the second year the University of Kentucky will be closed in observance (Monday, June 20).  

Below is a list of events UK and community members are invited to attend in celebration of Juneteenth.

Soulteenth — noon-7 p.m. Saturday, June 18, at Moondance Ampitheater

A celebration of Black liberation and ingenuity through music, art, agriculture and food.

17th Annual Juneteenth Jubilee at African Cemetery No. 2 — June 18

Immediately following Soulteenth on June 18; this event will highlight the spirit of freedom and honor the Civil War soldiers who fought for it.

Juneteenth Festival at Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden — June 19

Festival includes vendors, entertainment, kids' activities and community fellowship celebrating Black liberation .

Juneteenth Celebration — 5-7 p.m. Sunday, June 19, at Douglass Park. 

Come out and enjoy food, inflatables and music.  ​

Juneteenth Independence Day Celebration - Affrilachian Poets Literary Event — 7 p.m. Sunday, June 19, at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center

This poetry reading will be hosted by current Kentucky Poet Laureate Crystal Wilkinson and former Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker. Both are faculty members in the UK Department of English. The event will also feature current and newly inducted members of the Affrilichian Poets, including Amy Alvarez, Ron Davis, Zakia Holland, Nita Jade and Lisa Kwong.

The event is free, but registration and e-tickets are required for entry. Reserve your tickets at

Regional celebrations

Jessamine County: Juneteenth Festival — 5-6 p.m. June 17-19, on Jefferson Street.

Frankfort: What is Juneteenth? Interactive performance by Keith McGill — 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 18, at Josephine Sculpture Park.​

Richmond: Battle of Richmond Juneteenth Commemoration — 2-5 p.m. Sunday, June 19, at Mount Zion Christian Church.

Georgetown: Juneteenth Celebration — 1-10 p.m. Saturday, June 18 ,at Ed Davis Park.

Louisville: Juneteenth Jubilee Celebration — June 17-20, at Waterfront Park​

Cincinnati's 35th Annual Juneteenth Celebrations:

  • Raising the Juneteenth Flag — June 13-17​
  • Juneteenth Festival in Eden Park— June 18​
  • Junefest — June 19​
  • Juneteenth Parade — June 20 

For those on the UK campus, UK Libraries has created a book display inside William T. Young Library with selected titles you may check out to learn more about the holiday and its history.

This Friday, UKNow will feature a special Juneteenth edition of "Behind the Blue" with guest Anastasia Curwood, director of the Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies at UK. Curwood will reflect on the layered and complicated history of what the holiday represents, and how communities can continue to learn, grow and support freedom and equality for all people.

You can also read more about Juneteenth here, including what the holiday means personally to UK Gaines Center Director Melynda Price and her family. 

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.