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Posted on: June 1, 2021

Three Ways to Commemorate Juneteenth

Juneteenth in James City County

Juneteenth is a holiday that celebrates emancipation and marks the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth became a permanent state holiday in 2020. Texas was the first state to proclaim Juneteenth a state holiday in 1980. There are three ways to commemorate Juneteenth with educational experiences in James City County.

Freedom Stories & More at Freedom Park


On Saturday, June 19 from noon until 3 p.m., enjoy Freedom Stories & More at Freedom Park, located at 5337 Centerville Road. This event is free. Join Williamsburg native Dylan Pritchett, best known as “The Storyteller,” along with other Virginia Black Storytellers (VirBS) as they share with you Freedom Stories at Freedom Park! The Free Black Settlement area is the backdrop for this special event. Also featured are unique crafts for kids, music and food available for purchase.

This event is sponsored by James City County Parks & Recreation.

Freedom Park has a rich historical background dating back to the 1650s. This park is the site of an 18th Century cemetery, the Revolutionary War Battle of Spencer’s Ordinary (1781) and a 17th Century domicile which is revealing much archaeological research of the early colonial period (1680-1730). Freedom Park was also home to one of the nation's earliest Free Black Settlements in America from 1803-1850. Three historically accurate recreated cabins are located in the park, and are furnished with items authentic to the period.

Juneteenth at Jamestown Settlement


Beginning at 2 p.m., Jamestown Settlement will offer Juneteenth programming included with admission. Tickets to this limited-capacity event must be purchased in advance to reserve a seat. Commemorate Juneteenth – an American celebration that marks the end of slavery in the United States. Although the name springs from events that happened in Galveston, TX, in 1865, the origins date to Jamestown as the place where the first recorded Africans in 1619 were brought after landing at Old Point Comfort and where the first slavery laws enacted in the late 17th century impacted their lives and status.

In this thought-provoking 90-minute outdoor program of performance, music and dance, meet African Americans from three centuries who fought against those laws until freedom came. Among them, visitors will meet Elizabeth Key, who sued for her freedom in Virginia’s 17th-century courts and won; an 18th-century Black soldier who claimed his freedom by enlisting in the Continental Army’s integrated Rhode Island Regiment; and Frederick Douglass, a former slave who self-emancipated and became one the 19th century’s most famous abolitionists. Nathan M. Richardson will portray Frederick Douglass. Christy S. Coleman, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Executive Director, will speak at the Juneteenth event, offering opening and closing remarks.

Performances will feature Claves Unidos of Richmond, VA, interpreting the African Diaspora through dance, African drums and original interpretive choreography, while Lisa Reid-Williamson and Company will provide interludes of song.

Events at York River State Park


York River State Park will have two events on Saturday, June 19 that share stories of the history of African slavery in the Virginia Colony. 

  • Rebellion & Runaway Walk from 10 a.m. until noon
    How did African slavery begin in the Virginia Colony and did they seek freedom from their condition? Did any European indentured servants and Native Americans resist their lot as well? Walking with staff from York River State Park, participants will discover stories of rebellious conspiracies and courageous runaways and how they overcame the challenging terrain of Tidewater Virginia to elude their oppressors. Reservations are required by calling 757-566-3036 or emailing YorkRiver@dcr.virginia.gov
  • Rebellions and Runaways Along the River from 1-2 p.m.
    Enslaved Africans of Colonial Virginia made efforts to secure their freedom long before the Civil War. Discover stories of betrayed uprisings, undaunted maroons and others who stood against tyranny in the Tidewater area.

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