Juneteenth at Harvard: A celebration of Black freedom, food, and family traditions

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery across the nation and is often celebrated in African American communities with storytelling, cooking special recipes, and reflection on history and fellowship. Harvard University closed on Friday, June 18, 2021, in observance of the holiday. Learn more about the Juneteenth holiday and history.

Red, black and green paint splashed behind the words Juneteenth at Harvard a week of celebration

June 14: On Juneteenth with Annette Gordon-Reed

Annette Gordon-Reed smiling before a bookshelfAnnette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Harvard Carl M. Loeb University Professor, discussed her latest book On Juneteenth.  The event included a spoken word performance by Harvard college student Remka Nwana, and a book giveaway to students and Harvard community members in need.


Watch the On Juneteenth event


Remka Nwana performing spoken word on stageRemka Nwana is a spoken word poet and student of Kirkland House concentrating in economics and African Studies. She is the President of the Black Students Association and sings for KeyChange. Through her spoken word, she calls attention to racial injustice while uplifting and empowering Black people around the world. 


Read To Be Black in America is To Be A Superhero


June 17: Black Smoke

Blake Smoke author Adrain E. MillerSoul food scholar and James Beard Book Award Winner Adrian E. Miller discussed the history of African American barbecue culture detailed in his book Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue.  The talk was moderated by Edmund Barry Gaither, executive director of the National Center of Afro-American Artists and organizer of the Boston Annual Juneteenth Celebrations. Attendees received a chance to win a lunch from Black-owned BBQ joint Larry J's Cafe. 


Watch the Black Smoke Event


June 18: One Night in Boston

Boston skyline illuminated against the Charles River at duskThe evening featured musical performances, a film premier, and a tribute to Black Music Month. Events ran through the weekend, made possible by local organizations including the Harvard Medical School.


Watch the One Night Trailer

June 16: The Importance of Juneteenth

Blue, red, and white Texas flag overlaid across the map of the United StatesHarvard Business School's Senior Lecturer Henry McGee and Caleb Bradford (MBA 2021) talk about Juneteenth: what it is and why it’s important.



Watch The Importance of Juneteenth


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June 17: Stories of Juneteenth: A Conversation with Ms. Opal

Photo of Ms. Opal Lee, grandmother of JuneteenthKnown as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth”, Ms. Opal Lee told stories of her life and her personal journey to establish Juneteenth as a national holiday. Presented by the HCSPH Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Harvard Chan Research Scientists Association, the day featured welcome remarks from Dean Michelle A Williams.


Watch Stories of Juneteenth


June 17: Past, Present, and Future of Juneteenth

Red, black and green flag with gold lettering Juneteenth Freedom DayA panel of experts discussed the history of Juneteenth, what the holiday means for Americans, and ways in which all communities can observe, reflect, and educate in commemoration. Shirley Greene, associate dean of students at Harvard's Division of Continuing Education (DCE) joined the discussion moderated by Kristen L. Pope, DCE social media manager and award-winning broadcast journalist.

Watch the Panel Talk