Carlyle House to Host Juneteenth Celebration

“This is our independence day,” says Christopher Thomas who helped organize the event.

Carlyle House is a historic mansion in Alexandria, Virginia, United States, built by Scottish merchant John Carlyle in 1751–53. It is situated in the city's Old Town on North Fairfax Street between Cameron and King Streets. (Courtesy photo)
Carlyle House is a historic mansion in Alexandria, Virginia, United States, built by Scottish merchant John Carlyle in 1751–53. It is situated in the city’s Old Town on North Fairfax Street between Cameron and King Streets. (Courtesy photo)

Alexandria, VA- The historic Carlyle House in Old Town Alexandria will be hosting a Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 19. 

June 19, 1865 was the day of liberation for black Americans. The celebration, which is in collaboration with The Athenaeum, will include poetry readings, live music, activities, art and history. 

“We decided to host the event for Juneteenth because we want to shed light on America’s second independence day,” said Christopher Thomas, a poet and activist who helped organize the event. 

“Juneteenth is our day, our day of our actual emancipation in so many ways and we want to shed light on that.” 

The event is free to attend and will be held from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Attendees will have a chance to speak with the three poets, Jamal Rashad, Simply Sherri and Mysfit, who will be performing a live poetry reading. In addition to the poets, the event’s live music will be performed by cellist Benjamin Gates.

The celebration itself will take place outside of the Carlyle House on the lawn, in the gardens and tented terrace. 

“I’m hoping to see people come out, walk the grounds and actually have a conversation with the African American community and become more understanding and have a more in depth understanding of why Juneteenth is just as or even more important as July Fourth,” said Thomas.  

At the celebration there will be displays with information about the enslaved people John Carlyle and his descendants owned. There will also be a scavenger hunt held to help people learn more about Juneteenth. 

Honoring Those Neglected by History

The Slavery Inventory Database group staff will also be at the event to talk to attendees about their work both with the Carlyle House as well as identifying people who have been “neglected by history.”

“When I found out where the event was, on the grounds of John Carlyle’s estate, I thought how beautiful, because it was once a plantation and I know it’s sacred ground and it’s hollow ground,” said Thomas. 

“But, at the same time, calling attention and having black people stand on that ground where our ancestors died or shed blood, I think, is actually necessary and I think it’s a laugh in his face that you have black people doing great things on that ground.” 

The Carlyle House, once owned by John Carlyle, one of the town founders of Alexandria, depicts the story of Carlyle and his enslaved workers.

During the celebration, the museum will be open but masks are required inside the museum and when less than six feet apart from others outside. Free passes to visit the Carlyle House will be given out at the event for those who wish to return in the future. 

“We want to bring attention to the fact that black people, African Americans, are present. We built this nation on our backs with our blood sweat and tears, sacrifices and being torn away from our loved ones,” said Thomas.  “This is our independence day.”

MORE: Other Ways to Honor Juneteenth in Alexandria This Year