Celebrating Juneteenth Through Poetry: A Joyful Journey

Juneteenth, or Juneteenth National Independence Day, marks the day in 1865 when the last enslaved African Americans in Texas were informed of their freedom, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation first declared the end of slavery. Celebrated annually on June 19th, it’s a day of reflection, celebration, and community. One beautiful way to honor this important occasion is through poetry. Here’s how you can start celebrating Juneteenth with the power of verse!


Host a Poetry Reading


Gather friends, family, and community members for a Juneteenth poetry reading. Choose poems that reflect the history, struggle, and triumph of African Americans. Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” and Langston Hughes’ “I, Too” are powerful choices. Encourage participants to share their favorite poems or original works that speak to the spirit of Juneteenth. Make it an open-mic event to foster a sense of inclusion and community.


Create a Juneteenth Poetry Anthology


Compile a collection of poems that celebrate African American history and culture. Include works by celebrated poets like Gwendolyn Brooks, Claude McKay, and Rita Dove. Don’t forget to add contemporary voices who continue to shape the narrative. Share the anthology with friends, family, and local schools or community centers. This anthology can be a keepsake that educates and inspires long after Juneteenth.


Organize a Poetry Workshop


Bring together aspiring poets for a Juneteenth poetry workshop. Focus on themes like freedom, resilience, and cultural heritage. Provide prompts to spark creativity, such as “write a poem about what freedom means to you” or “describe a moment of triumph in African American history.” Workshops can be held in person or virtually, making them accessible to a wider audience.


Participate in Community Events


Many communities host Juneteenth celebrations that include poetry readings and performances. Check local listings for events and participate by reading a poem or simply attending and supporting the poets. These events often feature music, food, and art, providing a rich cultural experience. Engaging with your community in this way can deepen your appreciation for the significance of Juneteenth.


Check out this list of the best places to celebrate Juneteenth to see if your community is included. 


Organize a Poetry and History Walk


Organize a poetry and history walk in your neighborhood or local park. Along the route, set up stations with poems and historical facts about Juneteenth and African American history. Participants can read the poems aloud and discuss their meanings. This interactive approach brings poetry to life and educates participants about the historical context of Juneteenth.


Start an Online Poetry Campaign


Harness the power of social media to spread the message of Juneteenth. Start a hashtag campaign encouraging people to share poems that reflect the day’s significance. Share your own poetry and highlight works by African American poets. Platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok can help you reach a broader audience and engage in meaningful conversations.


Collaborate with Local Artists


Combine poetry with other art forms to create a dynamic Juneteenth celebration. Collaborate with local musicians, dancers, and visual artists to produce a multidisciplinary performance. For instance, pair a poetry reading with a jazz performance or create a mural that incorporates poetic verses. These collaborations can result in powerful expressions of freedom and cultural pride.


Reflect and Write


Finally, take some time to reflect on the meaning of Juneteenth and write your own poetry. Consider the struggles and achievements of those who came before you, and how their legacy impacts your life today. Writing poetry can be a personal and profound way to connect with the significance of Juneteenth. Share your poems with others or keep them as a personal tribute to the day’s significance.


Celebrating Juneteenth through poetry is a beautiful way to honor the past and look toward the future. Whether you’re hosting a reading, participating in community events, or writing your own verses, poetry can help you connect with the essence of Juneteenth. So, grab a pen, gather your community, and let the power of poetry make this Juneteenth truly unforgettable.


For more information on Juneteenth, visit the National Museum of African American History & Culture.