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Festival | Juneteenth

Join us for the second annual Juneteenth Celebration at the museum. Connect with activities, music, dance, demonstrations, art, and history.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Also known as Freedom Day, Juneteenth is an abbreviation of “June nineteenth” and honors the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865—a date two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. While Missouri announced emancipation on January 11, 1865, today, Missouri, Kansas, and 39 other states recognize Juneteenth as the official day of remembrance. The history of freedom and equal rights after emancipation is a long and complex one; indeed, that history is still being written. Juneteenth recognizes this, while celebrating the enduring and ongoing contributions of African Americans.

Performances and Presentations
Prelude Piano Music
10–10:30 a.m. Kirkwood Hall, Plaza Level, Nelson-Atkins Building | Pianist Elijah Thomas plays musical selections followed by an inaugural number for the Opening Program.

Opening Program
10:30–11:30 a.m. Kirkwood Hall, Plaza Level, Nelson-Atkins Building
Begin the day with welcoming remarks by local dignitaries including Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II and Makeda Peterson, Chairperson of the Planning Committee for JuneteenthKC, honoring the legacy of her father, founder of JuneteenthKC and the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City Horace M. Peterson III. Glenn North, nationally recognized poet, presents a special reading inspired by the Emancipation Proclamation. Charlotte Fletcher of Charlotte Fletcher & Soigné sings the powerful Lift Every Voice and Sing. The Kansas City Boys Choir, the Kansas City Girls Choir, and the Summer Choral Institute will sing inspirational selections. 

Story Telling
11:30–11:50 a.m., Gallery L5, Bloch Building
Professional storyteller and educator Tracy Milsap shares stories of the African American experience.

The Kansas City Boys Choir and the Kansas City Girls Choir
11:45–12:15 p.m. & 1–1:30 p.m. Kirkwood Hall, Plaza Level, Nelson-Atkins Building
Enjoy musical selections including the inspirational Rise Up!, under the direction of Ah’Lee Robinson.

Special Presentation featuring Artist Ed Dwight
12:15–12:45 p.m., Atkins Auditorium | Artist Ed Dwight and curator Stephanie Knappe sit down for a conversation about Dwight’s personal story, along with Dwight’s recent Juneteenth-inspired monument, The Texas African American Historical Memorial on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol, Austin.

World-renowned artist Ed Dwight has created more than 100 public works of art in his career, often depicting themes of African American history and leadership, including Juneteenth, which recognizes the ending of slavery. Born in Kansas City in 1933, Dwight was the first African American to graduate from Ward Catholic School, and he worked as a paperboy for Kansas City’s The Call newspaper. His father played baseball for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. Dwight served as a test pilot in the United States Air Force, catching the attention of President John F. Kennedy, who personally invited him to become the first African American trained as an astronaut in NASA’s Astronaut Corps. Dwight left the military, became an accomplished engineer and has been a working artist since the late 1970s.

Spoken Word
Gallery L5, Lobby Level, Bloch Building
1–1:15 p.m. | Nationally recognized poet Glenn North presents an original work in response to Kehinde Wiley’s Saint Adrian and other selections.
1:30–2 p.m. | Sheri “Purpose” Hall, poet, author, ordained minister, and activist presents work relating to the tradition of visual and performing artists bucking the system by challenging their environments. The audience will be invited to contribute to a collaborative word poem.

The Amber Underwood Project
12:45–1:30 p.m., Bloch Lobby | Enjoy a musical performance led by jazz flautist Amber Underwood including drum, keyboard, guitar, and vocals.

Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey Dance Performance
1:45-2:15 p.m. Atkins Auditorium | Enjoy dynamic dances under the choreography of Tyrone Aiken.

The Charlie Parker Memorial Foundation Jazz Ensemble
2:15–2:45 p.m. Kirkwood Hall, Plaza Level, Nelson-Atkins Building
Young musicians will share their jazz repertoire under the direction of Greg Richter and Joe Straws Jr.

Music & Kansas City 2Step Showcase
2:30–3 p.m., Bloch Lobby | Enjoy the rhythmic sounds of DJ Joe.
3–3:20 p.m. | 2Step Showcase
3:20–4 p.m. Free Dancing | DJ Joe accompanies De Barker from the Big Step Off 2018 with dancers from the Kansas City 2Step community followed by free dancing.

Artist Demonstrations
Gullah Basket Weavers
11 a.m. & 1 p.m. | Guests may take a turn at weaving.
10 a.m.-4 p.m., Bloch Lobby | Gullah basket weavers from South Carolina share their signature basket weaving styles.

NedRa Bonds
10 a.m.–Noon, Bloch Lobby | Local, award-winning textile artist NedRa Bonds discusses her quilts and the intriguing stories of African American lives they tell.

Michael Toombs
Noon–2 p.m., Bloch Lobby | Local muralist Michael Toombs discusses his painting, created specifically for Juneteenth, which also is the Juneteenth coloring page.

Anthony High
Noon–2 p.m., Bloch Lobby | Local artist and instructor at the museum demonstrates printing on a mobile press.

Ongoing Activities | 10 a.m. –4 p.m. except where noted
Traveling Trunk of Black Inventors & Innovators
Classroom 5, Nelson-Atkins Building
Explore African American innovations on display by the Black Inventors and Innovators. The film Kansas City Dreamin’ Music in Shadows: A Film by Diallo Javonne French will be screened on the hour.

The Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City
Classroom 4, Nelson-Atkins Building
View historical photographs highlighting African Americans in times of war presented by Geri Sanders, Black Archives Archivist.

Discussions with Museum Guides
Gallery L5, Bloch Building
Learn about the cultural and historical significance of the Mound Magician by Radcliffe Bailey.

Juneteenth Celebration North Star Quilt
Bloch Lobby
Snap a photo in front of the quilt!

Art Activities
Lens 2, Bloch Building
Art activity inspired by Kehinde Wiley’s work. Add your personal touch to a special Juneteenth coloring page created by local artist, Michael Toombs.

Drop-in Reading Event
1–4 p.m., Spencer Art Reference Library, Level 2, Bloch Building
Drop in for story times and view a display of materials about African American artists and history.

Food for Purchase
11 a.m.–4 p.m., Rozzelle Court Restaurant
House-smoked BBQ and freshly made lemonade by Chef Marcus Locke of American Dining Creations and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Sample favorites from Magnolia’s on the Move Southern Cuisine outside the Bloch Plaza entrance.


The second annual Juneteenth Celebration is generously funded by J.E. Dunn and Honorary Committee leaders Sharon and John Hoffman.

The members and volunteers of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, whose support makes festivals like this possible.

The museum is grateful to JuneteenthKC Director Makeda Peterson and textile artist, Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin for their partnership and collaboration. JuneteenthKC was brought to Kansas City in 1980 by Horace Peterson, founder and first director of the Black Archives of Mid-America.

JuneteenthKC Passport to Freedom
First Friday, Friday, June 1
Official Cultural Parade, Saturday, June 2
Official Heritage Celebration, Saturday, June 16

JuneteenthKC  information

PARKING | Garage parking $10, free for members

10:00 AM - 4:00 PM