: Juneteenth Oregon

How to Celebrate Juneteenth in Oregon

Celebrate the spirit of Black entrepreneurship and inclusiveness at a Black rodeo, at a community event or by supporting Black-owned businesses this month and all year-round.
June 15, 2021 (Updated June 14, 2023)

Oregon, mark your calendars for the week around June 19 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. 

New this year is an exciting event, Portland’s first Black rodeo, set for June 17 at the Portland Expo Center. Eight Seconds Juneteenth Rodeo promises to bring a blend of thrilling rodeo action, live musical acts and comedy. There will be classic rodeo events like bull riding, steer wrestling and barrel racing by top Black western athletes from across the country. The event’s mission is to expose local youth to the traditions, athleticism and grit of Black cowboys and cowgirls in America. Purchase tickets here for the event.

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)

Emancipation Day

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.

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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A Statewide Holiday

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 came 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. 

The biggest, the Annual Juneteenth Oregon Event, kicks off on June 17-18 with a parade at Lillis-Albina Park in North Portland. The festivities continue on June 19, complete with live music and local vendors. Organizers encourage the public to support local Black businesses in the Portland area. 

Saturday’s events include a parade and a festival with music by Cupid Cupid the Linedance KING, Kirk Green, BridgeCity Soul, Greater Kind and Jason Neville Funky Soul Band from New Orleans. There will food and retail vendors, a kids area, history tent, raffles and more. The fun continues on Sunday with the festival and performances by BridgeCity Jazz, Tyrone Hendrix & Juju Smith, Alonzo Chadwick, Saeeda Wright and Arietta Ward. Saturday’s parade begins on Northeast 6th Avenue (going south on MLK then west on Knott) and ends at N. Graham and N. Williams. The festival takes place Saturday and Sunday at Lillis Albina Park (N. Flint and N. Russell).

This is a free family-friendly event. Juneteenth Oregon is a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting, strengthening communities and sharing knowledge of the history of Juneteenth. This is a community-empowered festival.

In addition to festivities, parks and areas with day-use fee sites will be waived on June 19

Portland

Several businesses around town will be hosting their own Juneteenth celebrations. Look for live music on the patio, food and drink specials. Reservations are encouraged.

One of them is a Juneteenth celebration at Dirty Pretty, a new Portland bar on East Burnside. Come for a food pop-up by Kitchen Killa, DJ tunes by Motaz and others, and an art booth from local artist Cyrus Coleman. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Self Enhancement, Inc., a long-running Portland nonprofit resource for African American youth and families.

Another event, the second-annual Freadom Festival, invites the public to learn the importance of Juneteenth and celebrate literacy and liberation. The festival is set for noon-6 p.m. June 19 at Peninsula Park and is free to the public, with a community book swap, book drive for local inmates, library card signups, a children’s reading hour, author talks, zine making, info booths, raffles and more.

group of women hold books
Courtesy of Prose Before Pros, the all-women organizing team of the Freadom Festival.

Oregon Coast

The city of Coos Bay, on the Southern Oregon Coast, will host its annual Juneteenth Celebration. 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. It comes a year after the official unveiling of an Equal Justice Initiative historical marker outside the museum, acknowledging Tucker’s lynching and the history of lynching throughout the United States. 

This year’s celebration includes a youth Juneteenth writing competition, a special-edition Tuesday Talk and a free weekend at the Coos History Museum with lots of opportunities to get involved and celebrate.

On the Central Oregon Coast, Lincoln City is celebrating Juneteenth with a special event “Juneteenth: a Freedom Celebration” featuring live music from local performers, guest speakers, kids’ activities and a free barbecue lunch, hosted at Lincoln City’s Regatta Park.

Central Oregon

The public is invited to the second annual Central Oregon Celebrates Freedom Day June 17-18, 2023 at Drake Park in Bend, with a family movie night on June 19. The free, family-friendly-friendly event will feature entertainment, music, food and dancing. There will be face painting for the kids, a variety of historical and educational exhibits, artistic displays and recreation. The event is hosted by The Father’s Group, a local organization comprised of community leaders.

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 third-annual Juneteenth celebration at Town Center Park on June 17, featuring a keynote address by Pamela Slaughter, executive director of PDX People of Color Outdoors. The event includes food, drink, activities, giveaways, music by DJ Bryson Wallace and more. 

In Salem, join with Oregon Black Pioneers and Just Walk Salem Keizer for In Freedom’s Footsteps: Juneteenth Community History Walk on June 19. Starting and ending at the Willamette Heritage Center, the 3-mile walk (shorter options available) through downtown Salem through will bring to life the stories of longtime Salem residents Albert and Mary Ann Bayless and their family and friends.

In Corvallis, the NAACP Linn Benton Branch will hold its annual Juneteenth weekend celebration on June 19 with a Black-owned business expo, community fair, book giveaway, free food, arts and crafts and live music by DJ Kirkwood.

Southern Oregon 

BASE (Black Alliance Social Empowerment) Southern Oregon will host its Juneteenth celebration in Medford at Pear Blossom Park from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 19, featuring an African drumming group, local bands, DJs, singers, dancers, kids’ zone and local food showcasing Black-owned businesses.

A girl and woman wear tiaras and smile
Courtesy of Juneteenth Oregon

Juneteenth in Oregon Year-Round

Celebrating the essence of Juneteenth does not stop on June 19. 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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