Celebrating the History and Legacy of Juneteenth

A free, two-day festival at Pack Square Park, June 17 & 18, 2023.

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville & Buncombe County is celebrating a week-long observation of the Juneteenth holiday June 12-19, 2023.

The celebration will focus on educating individuals about Juneteenth, spotlighting non-majority businesses, providing spaces for Black Asheville as well as all residents, and involving youth as future leaders in the region.

The 2023 Juneteenth Celebration is designed as a diverse celebration that fosters broad participation, community awareness and appreciation, and celebrates the liberation of enslaved people. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th—two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation—that Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were now free.

That awareness thus started the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. The City of Asheville designated Juneteenth as a City holiday in 2021, and on June 8, Mayor Esther Manheimer issued a proclamation acknowledging Juneteenth as a day of celebration for Black Americans.

This year’s weeklong celebration includes numerous events designed to bring the community together to honor our forebears and to look forward to a brighter future.

Artist Tours and Other Events

Local Black and Brown Artist Tours will also be held each day, with schedules and locations available via the MLK website, mlkasheville.org.

Middle- and high-school youth who submitted posters for the Youth Poster contest will see their submissions displayed throughout the festival. Winners will be announced on the last day of the festival, Sunday, June 18, at Pack Square Park, and presented with awards of $75, $50, and $25.

Juneteenth Festival

The Juneteenth Celebration will culminate with a free, two-day Juneteenth Festival at Pack Square Park on Saturday, June 17, from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., and Sunday, June 18, from 1 to 6 p.m. Featured groups include:

  • Guest MC, Ty Russell, WLOS
  • The Stanley Baird Group, LLC
  • Westsound Productions
  • Virtuous
  • Malecia Williams
  • Delta House Jazz Band
  • Eaze Dogg
  • Hypnotic Band
  • The Carolina Diva Diamondz
  • and others!

History of Black Asheville

On each weekday from noon to 1 p.m. June 12–16, a lunch and learn session will give attendees the opportunity to learn more about Black Asheville history. Topics and dates are:

  • Monday, June 12: Linwood Crump Shiloh Community Center: Dr. Oralene Simmons and Jonathan McCoy on “Historical Facts of Juneteenth”
  • Tuesday, June 13: Stephens-Lee Community Center: “Community Reflections on the Historic Stephens-Lee High School”
  • Wednesday, June 14: Tempie Avery Montford Community Center: Mr. Matthew Bacoate, Jr., with “Reflections on Life in Black Asheville”
  • Thursday, June 15: Burton Street Community Center: Apostle Inez D. Ray, Rev. Alfred Blount, and Rev. Brent LaPrince Edwards discuss “The Role of the Black Church in Asheville”
  • Friday, June 16: Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Community Center: Drew Reisinger on “Slave Records Research” & Linda Brown on “African American Cemeteries Research”

African Americans in Film

Another featured event for the Juneteenth Celebration will be “African Americans in Film,” with movies free to the public at A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium. Each film will begin promptly at 6:30 p.m. and run until 8:30 p.m. (run time varies per movie). Note that the auditorium, like all A-B Tech buildings, is ADA compliant.

Films shown will be:

  •   Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Monday, June 12)
  •   Ali (Tuesday, June 13)
  •   The Woman King (Wednesday, June 14)
  •   Ray (Thursday, June 15)
  •   Madea’s Family Reunion (Friday, June 16)

In addition to the MLK Association, additional generous sponsors for the week-long events are Explore Asheville, GoodWill Industries, A-B Tech, Arts AVL, and Burial Beer Co.

Call for Volunteers!

Volunteers are needed to assist vendors in unloading and setting up their space between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m., on Saturday, June 17, and to help vendors that evening at 9 p.m. Some volunteers  are also needed as Crowd Certified assistants to monitor barricades at closed streets in case an emergency vehicle needs access to Pack Square Park. Crowd Certified volunteers will be scheduled for 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 3-7 p.m., and 7-9:30 p.m.

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact [email protected]; indicate your preferred hours, interest in becoming a Crowd Manager, and your cell phone number. All volunteers will receive a link to a short online orientation video.

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville & Buncombe County has a long history of community outreach, engagement, and educational programming. Learn more by visiting mlkasheville.org.