Juneteenth celebrations fill weekend in Chattanooga area

Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Parishioners from Westside Missionary Baptist Church carry a banner in the inaugural Juneteenth National Freedom Day Parade on North Orchard Knob Avenue in 2022.

Juneteenth, celebrated June 19, marks the day in 1865 when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas, 2 1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln's order freeing slaves in the Confederate States.

Also known as Freedom Day, Emancipation Day and as the country's second Independence Day, Juneteenth has been informally observed in parts of the country since 1866. In 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill officially declaring it a national holiday.

(READ MORE: The story behind Juneteenth and how it became a federal holiday)

Here are several ways for area residents to commemorate the holiday, including multiple events over the weekend leading up to the Monday observance.

— Unity Group of Chattanooga continues its Juneteenth commemoration with events themed to "Celebrating the Wave of Freedom." On Friday, the program "Juneteenth: The Legacy of Freedom and Liberation" will be presented at 7 p.m. at Eastdale Village Community United Methodist Church, 1403 Tunnel Blvd. Saturday features a criminal justice seminar led by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County NAACP at 10 a.m. at Greater Tucker Baptist Church, 11115 N. Moore Road. Sunday's focus will be Juneteenth worship services at various churches.

Monday's culminating events start at the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, 2 W. Aquarium Way. Guided tours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. will explore the life of George Jordan (1847-1904), other Black Medal of Honor recipients, the Buffalo Soldiers and the United States Colored Troops.

The Juneteenth National Freedom Day parade steps off at 1 p.m. Monday, with lineup starting at 12:30 p.m. on Peeples Street. The parade will be followed at 2 p.m. by a gala at Miller Park, 910 Market St., that pays tribute to 50 years of hip-hop.

A community book drive continues through Monday. The Unity Group is partnering with The Book & Cover, 1310 Hanover St., to purchase books from a curated collection of titles to be distributed for free to school-age children. facebook.com/unitygroupofchattanooga

(READ MORE: Chattanooga-area weekend events include bird and butterfly walks, cocktail toasts, corgi parade)

— Chattanooga Festival of Black Arts & Ideas culminates a month of activities with the second annual Juneteenth Freedom Run & Walk on Saturday on the Tennessee Riverwalk. Participants will gather at the Hubert Fry Center, 4301 Amnicola Highway, for the option of a 5K, 10K or half-marathon starting at 8 a.m. or a 1-mile walk at 10 a.m. The event honors Opal Lee, who in 2016, at age 89, walked from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., in an effort to get Juneteenth declared a national holiday. Fees are $35-$70. blackartsandideasfest.com

— Bessie Smith Cultural Center, 200 E. M.L. King Blvd., will partner with the city of Chattanooga, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the Tennessee Arts Commission for a Juneteenth Freedom Celebration from noon to 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The day will include live music, a documentary screening, food trucks, art and merchandise vendors and free admission to the museum. bessiesmithcc.org

— Bradley County Juneteenth Community Celebration is from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday at Avery Johnson Park, 252 Foster Lane, Cleveland, Tenn. It will include music, dance and spoken word performances, merchandise vendors, health screenings, children's activities, a fashion show and a father-son salute for Father's Day. Bring your own seating. Admission is free. facebook.com/clevbradlyNAACP

— The Bethlehem Center, 200 W. 38th St., will host the Southside Juneteenth Jubilee from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, rain or shine. The emancipation celebration will include music, arts, food and a vendor market of Black-owned businesses. Admission is free. thebeth.org/ juneteenthjubilee.

Contact Lisa Denton at [email protected] or 423-757-6281.