Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Traditionally Juneteenth is known as a cultural event that celebrates the emancipation of slaves in America in 1865.
Brought to Kansas City in 1980 by Horace M Peterson III, founder of the Black Archives of Mid-America INC, Juneteenth is an annual heritage celebration and platform that celebrates the emancipation of enslaved Africans in America and provides the backdrop to pay tribute to the founders of our community.
What is JuneteenthKC?
JuneteenthKC is Kansas City, Missouri's premiere community heritage celebration and is hosted annually within the 18th & Vine Historic District.
Every June, hundreds of thousands of people across the United States crowd the streets of their cities to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday, as they once did in Kansas City over 20 years ago. The streets of downtown Kansas City were once filled with fascinating sights, and reverberated with the sounds of vibrant KC talent and smells of authentic home-style barbeque.
Legacy Development in partnership with District Stakeholders and African American Cultural/Educational agencies work together to host a cultural event that allows people from all backgrounds to celebrate the progression of the African American community and enjoy the spirit of remembrance, unity, and personal independence.
JuneteenthKC in its current form features a vast variety of musical performances, live entertainment, a variety of retail, food, non-profit/public service, and youth-oriented vendors. In addition, the MetroPCS Main Stage features Kansas City's best live entertainment.
The Juneteenth flag was created in 1977 by activist Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation, with the help of illustrator Lisa Jeanna Graf. The deliberate process of designing the flag, which is brimming with symbols of the day’s meaning, has made it an integral component of the holiday.
Deliberately consisting of a red, white, and blue color scheme just like the American flag, the Juneteenth flag has a white star in the center, meant to represent both Texas (the Lone Star State), as well as the freedom of enslaved people in all 50 states. In that same vein, the white bursting outline surrounding the star is said to have been inspired by a nova, which is an astronomical event that marks the birth of a new star—in this instance symbolizing a new beginning for African Americans in the United States.
The arc that extends across the width of the flag, at the intersection of the red and blue sections, is yet another symbol of a new beginning, or rather, a new horizon. The red, white, and blue color scheme that mimics that of the American flag was a conscious choice, meant to connote that enslaved people (who were not granted citizenships) and their descendants were and always have been Americans, as well as signifying the United States’ continued responsibility to do right by those affected by the continued injustices faced by Black Americans that are still yet to be fully dismantled.
Juneteenth History Resources
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture
Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day. Though it has long been celebrated among the African American community, it is a history that has been marginalized and still remains largely unknown to the wider public. The legacy of Juneteenth shows the value of deep hope and urgent organizing in uncertain times. The National Museum of African American History & Culture is a community space where that spirit can continue to live on – where histories like this one can surface, and new stories with equal urgency can be told.
Watch the video as the Museum's Founding Director Lonnie Bunch III leads a tour through our Slavery and Freedom exhibition to celebrate #Juneteenth, highlighting stories behind some of our most popular objects, including Nat Turner's bible, freedom papers of free African Americans and a Sibley tent that housed African Americans who ran from Southern plantations in search of freedom with the Union army.
Learn more about the historical legacy of Juneteenth on our Tumblr and explore more objects related to emancipation in our collection.
Black Archives of Mid-America
The mission of the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City, Inc. is to collect, preserve and make available to the public materials documenting the social, economic, political and cultural histories of persons of African American descent in the central United States, with particular emphasis in the Kansas City, Missouri region. Black Archives of Mid-America is an educational resource and provides access to its collections for research, exhibition and publication to honor our community heritage and to catalyze public awareness.
Explore Our Digital Gallery
Did you know that there are hundreds of historic images available online from the Black Archives collection? There are photos of famous persons, church groups, civil rights activists, athletes and more.
Notable collections include numerous photographs of the Alvin Ailey dance troupe, Buffalo Soldiers and the Tuskegee Airmen.
Kansas City: African American History Tour
The Creation of Kansas City
18th & Vine History
Welcome to the African American Heritage Trail of Kansas City, MO. The Trail is “virtual,” as the number and land area of sites along the Trail are too large to walk. However, maps will guide you to neighborhoods and clusters of sites where you can create your own Trail experience.
The African American Heritage Trail of Kansas City, Mo has been driven by community input and will continue to grow in size and scope. Please check back often as we will be adding more sites and people regularly, as the African American History of Kansas City is rich, deep, and significant to growth of the community. Learn More