: Juneteenth Oregon

How to Celebrate Juneteenth in Oregon

June 15, 2021

Oregon, mark your calendars for June 19, 2021, for Juneteenth celebrations featuring live music and performances, food and goods from local businesses, and the honoring of Black history in the state and across the nation. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the holiday, Juneteenth is the acknowledgement of the collective end of slavery in the United States and is a long-standing African American holiday that honors the resistance and resilience of Black people in America.

From left: Juneteenth celebration in Austin in 1900 (Photo courtesy of Austin History Center / Austin Public Library); Juneteenth plaque in Galveston memorializing the original location (Photo by William Teller)

While the the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 decreed that all enslaved people would be free, many “border-Confederate” states like Texas still allowed slavery. On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Texas to enforce the proclamation, and that December, the 13th Amendment officially abolished slavery. 

One year later, in 1866, freed Black people in Texas organized the first Juneteenth celebration (the name being short for June 19th), and the tradition grew and spread across the country as Black Americans moved out of Texas.

Portland's annual Juneteenth Clara Peoples Freedom Trail Parade is named in honor of the former community organizer who was foundational to the city's first Juneteenth celebrations. (Photo courtesy of Juneteenth Oregon)

Clara Peoples Brings Juneteenth to Oregon

While Americans have been celebrating Juneteenth nationwide for more than 150 years, Oregon’s history is a bit different. Oregon officially became a state in 1859, though it was the only state to join the Union with exclusion provisions toward Black people. Juneteenth was introduced to Oregon in 1945 — almost a century later — by Clara Peoples, a resident of Vanport (the North Portland community built to house migrant workers during World War II) who had come to Oregon from Oklahoma to work in the Kaiser Shipyards. 

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Even after Peoples’ family was displaced during the 1948 Vanport floods, she spent decades working in the community and organizing Juneteenth celebrations and local community events. She helped initiate a citywide celebration for Portland in 1972. 

Peoples died in 2015 at age 89, and the following year Portland’s annual Juneteenth parade was renamed the Clara Peoples Freedom Trail Parade in her honor. “Miss Clara Peoples is foundational to Oregon; her family is the reason we have unofficially observed this holiday, and the Peoples have remained central in framing the expectation of a more equitable tomorrow,” Oregon Sen. Lew Frederick said during his Oregon Senate declaration. 

On June 19, 2021, during the 49th celebration of Juneteenth in Oregon, the state legislature approved a bill that recognized June 19 as an official state holiday starting in 2022. “This official holiday will recognize that the people of Oregon, despite our past, can take the veil of ignorance away and each year choose to have hope,” Frederick said upon the Senate’s signing of the bill. “Celebrating Juneteenth will help each of us remember all that we can and must do to ensure a more just future.”  

The declaration comes less than two months after the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin, the former officer convicted of the murder of George Floyd. The murder sparked a resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests around the globe, including in many communities in Oregon and for more than 100 days in a row in Portland.

“The treatment, experiences and struggles of Black Americans in Oregon are well documented,” said Charlene Alexander, Oregon State University’s vice president and chief diversity officer, as the university declared Juneteenth an official university holiday. “We encourage all OSU employees and students to observe this day in support of Black Americans and a commitment to end systemic racism.”

The annual Miss Juneteenth pageant (shown in 2019) is part of Oregon's festivities, designed to empower young women of color to build self confidence and other skills.

Where to Celebrate Juneteenth in Oregon

Juneteenth celebrations will be happening statewide throughout Oregon, so you can take part in the festivities no matter where you are. 

Statewide

The biggest, the 49th Annual Juneteenth Oregon Event, will take place virtually on June 19, 2021, starting at 1 p.m. You can log on to the worldwide celebration livestream at Juneteenth.com or PDXJazz.com. It will also be live on Facebook via Juneteenth Oregon and PDX Jazz, and Instagram via Juneteenth.or and PDX Jazz

The event will host live performances, raffles, and appearances by community leaders and Gov. Kate Brown as she signs into law Juneteenth as a state holiday. The event also features a raffle that promotes supporting local Black businesses in the Portland area. 

Oregon Coast

The city of Coos Bay, on the Southern Oregon Coast, will host its first Juneteenth Celebration in 2021. It will be hosted by the Coos History Museum and the Alonzo Tucker Task Force, named for the only lynching ever to be documented in Oregon, in Coos Bay in 1902. The event will kick off with the unveiling of an Equal Justice Initiative historical marker, acknowledging Tucker’s lynching and the history of lynching throughout the United States. Visitors can also experience a free day at the Coos History Museum with live music and Juneteenth take-home kits to learn, play, commemorate, and celebrate with family and friends. 

Fat Cupcake in Oregon City is one of many Black-owned businesses in Oregon. Juneteenth — and all year-round — is a time to celebrate that spirit of entrepreneurship and inclusiveness.

Willamette Valley 

The city of Wilsonville is hosting its first Juneteenth celebration at Town Center Park at 10 a.m. June 19. 

The NAACP Corvallis/Albany held its annual Juneteenth weekend celebration June 3-5, including food, music and a keynote address from Lakayana Drury — founder and executive director of Word is Bond, a Portland nonprofit that builds positive relationships between young Black men and law enforcement. There was also a scavenger hunt encouraging participants to learn about Black pioneers in Oregon. Stay tuned for the 2022 date.

Southern Oregon 

BASE (Black Alliance Social Empowerment) Southern Oregon will host its Juneteenth celebrations in Medford at Pear Blossom Park from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 19, featuring live music, food and local vendors. In Ashland the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is planning its Juneteenth celebration, which will highlight local Black entertainers, businesses and artists. Stay tuned for details. 

Portland

Stem Wine Bar on North Mississippi is one of several businesses in the city hosting their own Juneteenth celebrations. The wine bar is collaborating with three local Black women to celebrate the occasion with a live mural painting by Portland artist Naomi Likayi, a live DJ set by Portland musical artist Kingsley, and a wine flight of Red, White & Rosé from Donna Stoney, founder and winemaker at Stoney Wines and Oregon’s first Black woman-owned winery.

The event is set for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 19. Proceeds from the wine flights and glass pours of Stoney’s wine will be donated to the Black Resilience Fund, which provides direct financial assistance to Black Portlanders. Reservations are recommended.

Juneteenth in Oregon Year-Round

Celebrating the essence of Juneteenth does not stop on June 20. Whether you are a longtime Oregonian or just passing through, you can continue to help make Oregon a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone by supporting Black-owned businesses throughout the state and actively educating yourself on racism in America and how it presently impacts communities.

About The
Author

Kay Kingsman
Kay Kingsman is a travel blogger based in Portland and the voice behind The Awkward Traveller blog. When she’s not recounting her hilariously embarrassing adventures abroad, Kingsman uses her platform to provide tips and information to make travel more accessible and attainable. She’s featured in Forbes, Buzzfeed and Dame Traveler.

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