Honoring Juneteenth in the Valley beyond the holiday | Culture

Represented by colors of red, green and black, June 19 — also known as Juneteeth — celebrates when the news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached the last slaves in Texas in 1865. If you want to take part in observing this holiday, here are local places to visit and movies to watch in order to honor Juneteenth and Black history not just on June 19, as well as educational resources to further your knowledge about the holiday.

Places to visit

Harriet Tubman Cultural Center

Formerly used as a plantation for students by the State Normal and Industrial School for Women — now James Madison University — the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center’s a small building on Reservoir Street that memorializes the legacy of Harriet Tubman and educates about slavery and racism in the US The center is home to a timeline about Tubman, displays about local slave houses and videos that detail what life was like on a plantation. Visitors can also visit Freedom Trail markers that discuss different topics such as slave auctions and slave patrols.

Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project

According to its website, the mission of the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project is to “learn, share and illuminate the rich African American History and Culture of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.” The project was started in 2013 and works to recover and share Black history that is often kept out of history books. To educate the public about Black history, the center offers research presentations, speaker series and hosts events with other local businesses such as the Lucy Simms Center.

Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center

Lucy F. Simms was born as a slave in 1856 and later went on to teach over 1,800 students in Harrisonburg. A school, which served African American students in Rockingham County, was built in her honor after her death. Today, the school’s known as The Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center, which celebrates Simms’ life through an exhibit opened in April 2016. The exhibit tells the story of Simms’ school and how it impacted the local community. Outside of the exhibit, the Continuing Education Center is a academical facility that holds fitness classes, educational courses and conferences.

Movies to watch

Back to Natural (2019) — Available on Amazon Prime Video

Filmed in New York City, Philadelphia, Paris and Cape Town, Back to Natural explores the Black experience. The film was inspired by director Gillian Scott-Ward’s psychology clinic work as well as her desire to wear her natural hair. Through this film, Scott -Ward explores racial identity and the importance of hair in the Black community.

13th (2016) — Available on YouTube and Netflix

“13th” is a documentary directed by Ava DuVernay that explores the Thirteenth Amendment and the link to the mass incarceration of African American people. The main point of the film is to point out that although the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery, it still exists today in the US in the form of systemic racism.

I Am Not Your Negro (2017) — Available on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video

At the time of his death in 1987, James Baldwin left behind thirty pages of a manuscript titled “Remember This House,” which detailed the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. “I Am Not Your Negro” by filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions what the rest of Baldwin’s book would’ve been like.

Educational resources

The National Museum of African American History and Culture

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is part of the Smithsonian, is the first museum devoted solely to the documentation of African American history and culture. While the museum as a whole celebrates Black culture, it hosts special events for Juneteenth. The museum’s website is home to many articles about Juneteenth and in-person exhibits about the holiday are available to visitors.


Juneteenth.com was founded in 1996 by Cliff Robinson with a mission to “inspire and support individuals, organizations and corporations in the hosting of Juneteenth celebrations.” The website is home to educational resources that explain what Juneteenth is, why it’s celebrated and how you can celebrate it.

The Library of Congress collections

The Library of Congress (LOC) collections details events in US history and holds a special section detailing the history of Juneteenth. If you are looking to learn more about the holiday, the LOC collections contain blogs, photos and webpages that detail the history and importance of Juneteenth.

A major way to celebrate Juneteenth is to learn about Black history in the US. Dedicating the time to watch a movie or to visit local Black museums and taking that extra step to educate yourself is an easy way to honor the people that were granted freedom on June 19, 1865.

Contact Morgan Vuknic at vuknicma @ dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Instagram and Twitter @Breeze_Culture.


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