Juneteenth, observed annually on June 19, is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. The holiday is also known as Jubilee Day or Freedom Day.

On June 19, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation was read to enslaved people in Texas. Although the emancipation proclamation was issued two and a half years prior on January 1, 1863, it excluded those enslaved in several states where the proclamation had not been enforced, including Texas, the last Confederate state to have the Emancipation Proclamation announced.

On March 31, 2020, the Chattanooga City Council unanimously adopted a resolution designating June 19 of each year as Juneteenth Independence Day in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

The Chattanooga Festival of Black Arts & Ideas: Juneteenth Independence Day Festival

June 4 - June 25

The Chattanooga Festival of Black Arts & Ideas is celebrating its fifth Annual Juneteenth Independence Day commemoration/demonstration with a multi-day festival this year! 

The month-long events kick off with the RBG (Red, Black, and Green) Ball and Innaugural Black Arts Awards ceremony. This black-tie affair honors local artists with awards in the disciplines of music, dance, visual arts, literature, theatre, and film. Local celebrity chef, Kenyatta Ashford, will curate and prepare the meal. 

Throughout the month, events include theatre productions, literary lounge, sip-paint-spit (paint and poetry) session, genealogy workshop, music festival, Freedom run and walk, Juneteenth Commemoration Ceremony and Concert with special guest Ruben Studdard, and so much more.

Event Highlights

See all Festival of Black Arts & Ideas Juneteenth Events here

Vision + Verse Book Launch with Christian Collier 

Thursday, June 16 at 6 p.m. | Hunter Museum of American Art Terrace

Join the Hunter Museum of American Art for a book launch on the Hunter terrace featuring Christian Collier and his new book “The Gleaming of the Blade,” which includes poems inspired by pieces at the Hunter Museum.

This event is free and open to all. Start Juneteenth weekend with a celebration of this incredible poetic voice and vision.

Juneteenth Paddle Experience

Saturday, June 18, 9:30 a.m. | Greenway Farms

TrailblazUs Outdoors and Outshine Adventures are joining forces to offer a Juneteenth Paddle Experience at Greenway Farm Park. Make plans to join them for a day outside, challenging yourself with a new activity and celebrating African-American culture and emancipation.

Learn the basics of paddleboarding from an experienced guide. North Chickamauga Creek at Greenway Farm Park is a great beginner-friendly paddling option in Chattanooga. 

The cost includes a guided tour, instruction, paddleboard, paddle, and lifejacket. Registration is required in advance as space is limited. This experience is best suited for children ages 13+. Kids under 10 should ride with an adult.

Southside Juneteenth Jubilee at the Bethlehem Center

Saturday, June 18, 1 - 4 p.m.

Celebrate Juneteenth while supporting African-American businesses at the Bethlehem Center's Southside Juneteenth Jubilee. The free event includes local vendors, music, food trucks, and more!

Learn More and Support Black-owned businesses in Chattanooga

Be sure to check out the educational videos about Juneteenth produced by the Black Arts and Ideas Festival. The Bessie Smith Cultural Center is a great resource to learn about African American history and culture in Chattanooga. 

In addition to these events, support Black-owned businesses in Chattanooga. This community-sourced list is continually updated.