Celebrating Juneteenth 2023

Columbia College Chicago provides recommendations on how to observe Juneteenth 2023 around the city and from home.

Juneteenth, Monday, June 19, commemorates the day in 1865 when 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were finally freed following the end of the American Civil War, two years after the emancipation proclamation was enacted. Juneteenth is known as the country’s second Independence Day.   

Juneteenth has been celebrated for more than 160 years but was named a federal holiday in 2021. Observance of Juneteenth includes celebrations of freedom and Black culture and history in America. Columbia College Chicago will close in observance of Juneteenth 

The weekend before and the day of Juneteenth, the city of Chicago has numerous opportunities to learn about Black history and participate in celebrations. Here are ways to celebrate in the community and observe the holiday at home.   

Around the City  

Explore one of the city’s most historic neighborhoods at Bronzeville’s 2023 Juneteenth Celebration: Strengthening the roots that tie us together. The Saturday, June 17 event has attractions for all ages and will bring together visual and performing artists, historians, crafters, small business and more. The event aims to celebrate the significance of Juneteenth while bringing the memory of emancipation for African Americans and the price of freedom for all Americans throughout American history to the forefront.  

For those interested in the arts, the American Writers Museum Juneteenth Celebration will recognize the work and legacy of Black artists and authors. The Monday, June 19 event features a reading from author Jaha Nailah Avery’s new book Those Who Saw the Sun and a gallery talk by Chicago artists Dorothy Burge, Damon Reed and Dorian Sylvain. Their work is featured in AWM’s special exhibit Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice. 

Film lovers can take in the 20th annual African Diaspora Film Festival and see the international debuts of several new culturally significant films. The event runs June 15 to 18 at The Facets and Siskel Film Center and features the Black and Indigenous experiences and features stories which explore the interaction between immigrants and their surroundings.  

These are just two of the many opportunities to   observe Juneteenth throughout Chicago. Check out Choose Chicago’s complete list of cultural events, shopping opportunities, and community and neighborhood events. 

Streaming Recommendations  

Over the holiday and beyond, there are opportunities to learn more about Black history in America through media. Associate Professor Karla Fuller from the Cinema and Television Arts Department gives us her streaming recommendations for Juneteenth.  

12 Years a Slave, Amazon Prime (2013) 

Based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northrup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Directed by Steve McQueen. 

13TH, Netflix (2016)  

Directed and produced by filmmaker and ARRAY’s own Ava DuVernay, this documentary features commentary from thought-leaders, scholars, and activists about this history of racial inequality in America, the criminalization of the Black community and the U.S. prison system’s institutional racism. 

I Am Not Your Negro, Netflix (2016)  

Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson and directed by Raoul Peck, this 2016 documentary and social critique is based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House. The project was slated to include personal accounts, including the murders of three close revolutionary friends—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. 

One Night in Miami, Amazon Prime (2020) 

A fictional account of one incredible night where icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathered and discussed their roles in the Civil Rights Movement and cultural upheaval of the 60s. Directed by Regina King. 

Is That Black Enough for You?!?  Netflix (2022) 

This film tracks the history of Black cinema, focused mainly on the '70s, with archival and new interviews with many of the key players from the era. Written and directed by Elvis Mitchell. 

Summer of Soul, Hulu (2021)  

Documentary about the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival which celebrated African American music and culture and promoted Black pride and unity. Directed by Questlove.