It is known as “America's Second Independence Day.” Yet there is no battle marking that day. No birthday of a new nation. Not even an anniversary of a document. Rather Juneteenth, the commemoration of freedom from slavery, commemorates June 19, 1865 - the date federal troops arrived in Galveston, TX to enforce Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and free the last Americans held in captivity.
In many ways, Juneteenth is America's genuine Independence Day, because it marks the date that the promise of freedom for all was first realized across the United States.
Here are several ways you can mark this important date in American history – and also help support the legacy of Black Americans and the equality movement pushing forward across the nation today.
*Note: Be sure to check with each individual business or location prior to visiting for hours, reopening status, and/or health protection measures.*
Learn from our past to understand our present
Fairfax County and the surrounding national capital region offers many sites and attractions that help tell the story of the struggles, sacrifices, and vital contributions that African Americans have made throughout our history. Take some time to learn about these places through online tours, educational materials, or, when they reopen, an in-person visit. A few under-the-radar spots include:
Gum Springs is a small town, established in 1833 by West Ford, which became a haven for those formerly enslaved, including both freedmen and runaways. The town continued to thrive and is one of the oldest African American communities in the United States. Today, a small museum and cultural center located in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County tells these stories and more.
Laurel Grove School
Laurel Grove, a former African American schoolhouse, tells the unique story of a community’s refusal to narrow its ambitions. This site, now the last remaining African American school in the region, serves as a "living museum" and is typically open by appointment only, but you can learn more about it here.
Tinner Hill, in Falls Church, is recognized as the location where the first rural branch of the NAACP was initiated in the United States. Visit a 15-foot monument that honors those who made this a reality, and nearby, explore the Tinner Hill Historic Park and Zig Zag Monument, a sculpture that follows the original location of the segregation line.
There are many more sites, museums, memorials, and monuments in and around Fairfax County, like the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and Frederick Douglass’ Cedar Hill. Be sure to bookmark our guide to these and more African American experiences.
Support black-owned businesses
As life starts to resume amid COVID-19, many are aching to get back into restaurants and retailers. There are hundreds of restaurants in Fairfax County, but if you want to support local, black-owned eateries, there are many cuisine options to choose from as well. Grab a taste of the islands at Caribbean Plate in Falls Church, treat yourself to a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony at Enatye Ethiopian Cuisine in Herndon, find comfort in delicious southern home cooking at Della J’s Delectables in Springfield, or take home a mouth-watering pie from Pie Gourmet in Vienna.
For an evolving list of black-owned restaurants in Fairfax County, click here. Do you know of a spot that should be added? Let us know in the comments.
Educate and pay it forward
Explore other online resources to help grow your understanding and knowledge of the African American experience in America.
Image courtesy Smithsonian
Check out some events happening throughout the month related to Juneteenth, including a special livestream with Brenda Parker at Mount Vernon on June 19, a pre-recorded video tour of the Slavery and Freedom exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture with founding director Lonnie Bunch III, and Step Afrika! Juneteenth Celebration, streaming live on Facebook and YouTube.
Header image courtesy Patrick Lyon of Lyon Photography. Help spread the love by visiting the new Virginia LOVEwork sign at the Workhouse Arts Center, which was recently transformed by resident Workhouse artist, Marly Mcfly. Share your LOVEwork pics with us using #FXVA, #LoveVA and @VisitFairfax.