ALEXANDRIA, VA – Alexandria is celebrating Juneteenth (June 19) with a variety of events. The holiday marks the day in 1865 when enslaved individuals in Galveston, TX, learned that the Emancipation Proclamation had freed them more than two years earlier. It has been observed in various places throughout the country for 157 years. It was first recognized as a state holiday in Virginia three years ago.
Take a look at these events happening throughout the month, courtesy of Visit Alexandria.
- June 17, 2023:
- Manumission Tour Company will offer a Juneteenth African American History Bus Tour. Visit historic sites that tell the story of African Americans in early Alexandria, including several historic African American churches in the city.
- Carlyle House, a historic house museum and park, is hosting its annual Juneteenth celebration in collaboration with The Athenaeum, a regional arts organization, and C. Alexandria-Bernard Thomas, a Black non-binary, award-winning poet. Discover the history of Juneteenth through hands-on activities, art, history and poetry readings.
- June 19, 2023:
- The Washington Revels Jubilee Voices ensemble presents a free concert of traditional African American songs of struggle and freedom at Alexandria’s Market Square.
- Find more Juneteenth events here.
New Outdoor Experiences
- New Waterfront Public Art Installation: Just weeks after debuting her critically acclaimed Harriet Tubman monument in Newark, NJ, Jamaican-born, New York-based award-winning artist Nina Cooke John of Studio Cooke John unveiled her waterfront public art installation in Alexandria in late March. On display until November 2023, Two Boxes of Oranges and Admonia Jackson was inspired by the ships uncovered on Alexandria’s waterfront and the many layers of history that are not readily seen. Visitors can stand imagine a time in Alexandria’s history when the ships carried not only cargo like tobacco and molasses, but also enslaved people who were traded as part of the transatlantic and domestic slave trades.
- Southern Route of the African American Heritage Trail: In February 2023, the new southern waterfront route of the self-guided Alexandria African American Heritage Trail debuted in the form of an online StoryMap, highlights the people, places and neighborhoods from the time of Alexandria’s founding through the 20th century. Corresponding signage and markers will be installed along the route in summer 2023.
- Alexandria Archaeology Museum: On June 9, 2023, the Alexandria Archaeology Museum opens a new permanent archaeology exhibit called the “Lee Street Site,” centering the experiences of free and enslaved African Americans in Alexandria. The exhibit draws from recent archaeological discoveries along the city’s waterfront, including four historic ships and the remnants of businesses and homes, to interpret Alexandria’s full, often difficult, history. One exhibit case explores the remains of a bakery operated by an enslaver who began to manumit some enslaved individuals as baking became industrialized in the 19th century, while an 1828 document records the liberation of a woman named Jane Turley and her four children. The exhibit was designed in collaboration with StudioA, whose previous clients include the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
- Alexandria Black History Museum: The Alexandria Black History Museum reopened in early 2023 with a new exhibition, Preserving their Names: The Black Lives Remembered Collection, featuring digital images and artifacts donated from the community in the D.C. region following the murder of George Floyd. The updated Before the Spirits are Swept Away exhibition, showcasing Sherry Zvares Sanabria’s paintings of African American sites, emphasizes the personhood of enslaved individuals, centering them in the sites where they lived and worked. The new children’s area offers thought-provoking and age-appropriate activities for young visitors.
- Freedom House Museum: This national historic landmark features three exhibitions showcasing Alexandria’s Black history and the Black experience in America. Learn about the experiences of the enslaved and free Black people who lived in—and were trafficked through—Alexandria, plus stories from the Civil Rights Movement and more.
- 1799 Prime Steak & Seafood: Opened in late summer 2022, 1799 is a polished but welcoming Old Town steakhouse owned by Jahmond Quander, a member of one of the oldest documented African American families, and co-founded by Chef Sonny Tena. A mural in the courtyard depicts the Quander family’s journey from Ghana to George Washington’s Mount Vernon to the Old Town restaurant opening.
- Café du Soleil: This French-inspired café offers coffee, pastries and classic French-style dishes just steps from Alexandria’s waterfront.
- Harambee Books & Artworks: Browse a unique selection of books and hard-to-find classic literature by and about people of African descent, plus exclusive artworks and fashionable apparels at Northern Virginia’s first Black-owned bookstore.
- Explore more Black-owned businesses here.