As summer approaches, a day of immense historical significance is coming up: Juneteenth. This annual observance, also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, commemorates the liberation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. On June 19, 1865, news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached Galveston, Texas, marking the end of slavery in the last Confederate state. Today, Juneteenth stands as a reminder of the triumph of freedom over oppression, a day that deserves recognition, reflection, and celebration. While Juneteenth is cherished across the nation, there is no better place to honor this milestone than in the vibrant city of Washington, D.C. Here, amid the rich tapestry of history, diverse cultures, and enduring resilience, the celebration of Juneteenth takes on a special significance, serving as a beacon of unity and progress for all. Washington, DC is the perfect place to learn about the history of the US and celebrate such an important holiday to pay respects to those significant figures who led the way for our nation. Read on to learn about some sights to check out.
Celebrate Juneteenth in Washington, DC
Steps of the Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial honors the sixteenth president of the United States Abraham Lincoln who guided the country through the Civil War and contributed to the freedom of over four million enslaved people. The exterior of the memorial is inspired by Greek architecture with 87 steps extending from the edge of the reflecting pool to the main chamber. This grand memorial is where the “I Have A Dream Speech” occurred (with an inscription on the stairs depicting this), where Marian Anderson performed, as well as the location for many other historical moments. Inside of the memorial chamber sits a striking statue of Abraham Lincoln with inscriptions from Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address and Gettysburg Address surrounding him on the north and south walls. Words and pictures do not do this memorial justice, and it is definitely a sight to behold in person. Learn more about the Lincoln Memorial here.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an extremely influential figure in American history who made great strides for the civil rights movement and granting more rights to African Americans. He is a prominent figure in the US and will live on in history for his influence during the Civil Rights Movement and for his role in ending legal segregation in the United States. You can honor MLK all year round at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC.
Located in downtown DC along the Tidal Basin, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial stands at 30 feet tall on Independence Ave SW near the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. The design of the memorial is a grand statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. carved beautifully into stone to depict his image emerging from a mountainside. The inspiration for the design of the statue comes from the quotation “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope” from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington, DC in 1968. The stone with the statue carving is depicted as a slice pulled from a mountain, symbolizing the stone of hope from the mountain of despair. There are incredible details like scrape marks on the edges to symbolize the struggle to create change as well as an engraving with this quotation.
If you’re headed to the National Mall in DC, you definitely want to check out the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The memorial’s address is 1964 Independence Avenue SW, and this street number references the year that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became a law in the United States. We strongly encourage you to plan your trip to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC. To read more about the memorial, the National Park Service page dedicated to the MLK Memorial has useful information and links.
The African American Civil War Memorial & Museum
The African American Civil War Memorial & Museum in Washington DC is a powerful tribute to the nearly 210,000 Black soldiers and sailors who served in the Civil War. The memorial is located at the entrance of the museum, featuring a bronze statue of three soldiers, one holding the American flag. The museum itself is dedicated to educating visitors about the experiences of African Americans during the Civil War, as well as the broader struggle for civil rights and equality.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC is a comprehensive and immersive exploration of African American history, culture, and identity. The museum recounts events of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and continues through the Civil Rights Movement and into the present day. The exhibits cover a wide range of topics, from the arts and literature to politics and social justice. The museum’s collection includes items such as Harriet Tubman’s hymnal and a segregation-era railway car. Through its exhibits, the museum aims to provide visitors with a deeper understanding of African American history and its impact on American society as a whole. It is a powerful and necessary institution that honors the legacy of African Americans and contributes to ongoing conversations about race and equity in the United States. Read more about the museum and planning your visit on the National Museum of African American History and Culture website.
The exhibits in the museum cover a range of topics, including the history of slavery, the Underground Railroad, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the contributions of African American soldiers and leaders during the war. The museum also features a collection of artifacts, including uniforms, weapons, and letters from Black soldiers. Exhibits showcase the accomplishments of Black leaders such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, who fought tirelessly for the abolition of slavery and the advancement of civil rights.
Overall, The African American Civil War Memorial & Museum offers a thought-provoking and immersive experience that is both educational and inspiring. It serves as a reminder of the struggles and triumphs of African Americans throughout history and encourages visitors to continue the fight for equality and justice. Learn more about the memorial and museum here. Some of the indoor portions of the museum will be renovated and expanding soon, so make sure to keep an eye out on updates from the official website.
Black Lives Matter Plaza
Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC is a public street that was renamed and painted with large yellow letters spelling out “Black Lives Matter” in June 2020. The plaza was created in response to widespread protests and calls for racial justice following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. The plaza has become a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement and a gathering place for demonstrations and rallies related to racial justice. The plaza is located near the White House and has become a site ongoing activism. It serves as a visible reminder of the ongoing struggle for racial equality in the United States and a call to action for individuals and institutions to do more to address systemic racism and discrimination. Black Lives Matter Plaza is a two-block-long pedestrian section of 16th Street NW in downtown Washington, D.C. and is definitely worth visiting.