Celebrate with these 14 free Juneteenth events in Iowa in 2024

Juneteenth events in Iowa

By Amie Rivers

June 5, 2024

Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, is an important federal holiday celebrating the end of chattel slavery in the US. Here are several Juneteenth events in Iowa in 2024.

After the Emancipation Proclamation was signed into law in 1863, slaveowners in many isolated parts of the country kept news of it from the people they had enslaved to continue profiting off of their free labor.

As the Civil War raged around them, President Abraham Lincoln sent Union troops around the country, enforcing the new law plantation by plantation.

On June 19, 1865, more than two years after the proclamation went into effect—and more than two months after the Union won the war—troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, to tell more than a quarter of a million Black Texans the news.

They were among the last to know they had been freed, and that day became known around the country as Juneteenth or Freedom Day.

It has long been informally celebrated in the Black community in the US, and has been a state holiday in Texas since 1980. (Here in Iowa, it was first observed in 2002.) But it wasn’t until June 17, 2021, that Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed a law making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

“Juneteenth is a day that we celebrate not just the end of slavery in the US but also honor our ancestors, celebrate our families, honor the contributions of Black people and showcase the strength and diversity of our stories, experiences and lives,” said Ankeny’s Juneteenth organizer Deshara Bohanna in 2023.

“It’s a day of celebration to recognize the freedom that was robbed from us so long ago,” said LaTanya Graves, an organizer of Waterloo Juneteenth, in 2023. “It’s just to commemorate what our ancestors went through in order to be free. And, even after they were free, we still have so many trials and tribulations we went through.”

Juneteenth is officially a Wednesday this year, but events run throughout the month. Check out the list below to find Juneteenth events in Iowa near you:

Read: At Majority-White UNI, Highlighting Black History ‘Extremely Important’

June 11, 18 – Washington

Washington for Justice Juneteenth events

6:30-8 p.m., Washington Public Library June 11 and 18.

Two events at the same time and place, on different days, will commemorate Juneteenth in Washington, Iowa.

On June 11, Washington for Justice will hold a free screening of the 2016 film “13th,” about the prison-industrial complex and its impacts on Black Americans in particular. The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution outlawed slavery “except as a punishment for crime.” More info here.

Then on June 18, the group will hold a Juneteenth Commemoration Program featuring Caleb “The Negro Artist” Rainey, who will perform music, spoken word poetry, and more.

More info here.

Read: Ras Smith On Black History Month And The Negro National Anthem

June 13-19 – Cedar Rapids

African American Museum of Iowa’s 2024 Juneteenth Commemoration

African American Museum of Iowa and NewBo City Market, Cedar Rapids

The African American Museum of Iowa will have events all week celebrating Juneteenth, including extending its gallery hours, a Taking Care of Me! seminar on June 13, a Black Agriculture and Farmers lecture June 16, author talks from Rachelle Chase and Jim Tillman on June 18, and more.

But they’ll also host the Juneteenth Festival from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on June 15 at NewBo, which will feature live music from Bethany Elle, Rahlan Kay, Church Kids, Alicia Monee and Crew, and James Tutson, along with DJ Commando, and plenty of food and vendors.

More info here.

Read: Queer doulas make childbirth safer for Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ people, but barriers remain

June 14-16 – Dubuque

Celebrate with these 14 free Juneteenth events in Iowa in 2024

14th annual Juneteenth Freedom Celebration

Multicultural Family Center (1157 Central Ave.) and Jackson Park, Dubuque

Featuring a Friday evening art exhibition and music from 5-9 p.m., a Picnic in the Park on Saturday afternoon from noon to 4 p.m., and Community Prayer and Praise from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday.

More info here.

Read: Henry Riding: Sioux City’s Shotgun-Wielding Black Hotelier

June 14-19 – Iowa City

13th annual Johnson County Iowa Juneteenth Commemoration

Various times and locations

A week of events in Iowa City will celebrate the holiday:

  • The Iowa City Juneteenth Celebration will be at 4 p.m. June 14 on the Iowa City Pedmall, featuring a musical tribute to Earth, Wind, & Fire, a spoken word performance, a praise dance, and more.
  • On June 16, the Juneteenth and Father’s Day Picnic at noon at Wetherby Park will feature a community potluck, DJ, 3-on-3 basketball, and yard games.
  • The “I Am Sacred” art show will be from 4-7 p.m. June 19 at the Iowa City Senior Center.
  • “IC Teens Explore: Juneteenth Through Food and Music Evolution” will be from 3:30-5 p.m. June 19 at the Iowa City Public Library Teen Center, featuring free food and the history of African American music since emancipation.

More info here.

Read: Buxton: Iowa’s Lost Black Utopia

June 15 – Ames

Celebrate with these 14 free Juneteenth events in Iowa in 2024

Juneteenth Celebration

12:30-5 p.m., Bandshell Park; 7-9 p.m., City Hall Auditorium; Ames

Featuring entertainment, kids activities, food, vendors, and more at Bandshell Park. A movie will be shown at 7 p.m. at City Hall Auditorium.

More info here.

June 15 – Davenport

2024 Quad City Juneteenth Festival – Still Breaking Chains

11 a.m.- 4 p.m., LeClair Park, Davenport

Hosted annually by the Friends of MLK, the festival will feature live entertainment, games, local and national history, food, and more.

More info here.

June 15 – Des Moines

Celebrate with these 14 free Juneteenth events in Iowa in 2024

Iowa Juneteenth Observance – Neighbor’s Day Celebration

Noon-7 p.m., Western Gateway Park, Des Moines

Featuring entertainment from acts like The People’s Band, food, vendors, plus kids activities with the Des Moines Public Library including meeting local children’s book authors and creating your own book.

More info here.

June 15 – Pleasant Hill

Celebrate with these 14 free Juneteenth events in Iowa in 2024

Juneteenth Celebration Hike

10:30 a.m.-noon, Copper Creek Lake Park, Pleasant Hill

Put on by Black Iowa Outdoors, participants are invited to wear black, red, green, or yellow, and check in between 9:30 and 10 a.m. Physical therapist Dr. Patrick Ford will give a presentation at 10:10 a.m., followed by a hike around the park.

More info here.

June 15 – Waterloo

29th annual Juneteenth – Unity in the Community

1-8:30 p.m., Sullivan Park, Waterloo

Featuring live performances from EJ Jones “The Chosen Child” at 5 p.m. and HartSmith at 6:30 p.m., plus the Crusaders Drill Team, basketball and softball games, kids activities, food, vendors, and more.

More info here.

Read: Dr. Cunningham, a Waterloo Native, was Iowa’s First Black High School Principal

June 19 – Clinton

Celebrate with these 14 free Juneteenth events in Iowa in 2024

Juneteenth Celebration

5-9 p.m., Nelson Corp Field, Clinton

Featuring live music from the Funktastic 5, a short program, food, vendors, and plenty of kids activities like a puppet show, coloring contest, touch-a-truck, and more.

More info here.

June 19 – Des Moines

Celebrate with these 14 free Juneteenth events in Iowa in 2024

5th annual Juneteenth Celebration

6-8 p.m., Willkie House, 900 17th St.

Put on by DSM Black Liberation Movement, the event features free food, music, games, and more.

More info here.

June 19 – Ottumwa

Ottumwa Juneteenth Celebration and River Roots Festival – Unity in the Community

1-9:30 p.m., Railroad Park, Ottumwa

Featuring everything from a puppet show to the Marshallese Choir to Acholi African Dancers and more. Then, the River Roots Festival begins at 6 p.m. and will feature Deion Wyckoswki and The John Paul Jones Group.

More info here.

June 19-22 – Keokuk

Juneteenth Festival

Various locations and times

The Keokuk Association for Rights and Equality (KARE) is holding their 4th annual Juneteenth Festival, including the following events:

  • June 19: Juneteenth Freedom Concert, 6 p.m. First Christian Church
  • June 20: Freedom March Parade starts at the mall at 6 p.m., ending in the 1200 block of Main Street
  • June 21: Block Party, 5 p.m., next to Dr. Getwell’s. Featuring a DJ, food vendors, and a sidewalk chalk coloring contest.
  • June 22: Pancake breakfast, 8-11 a.m., Rand Park
  • June 22: 5K Freedom Run/Walk, 8 a.m., Rand Park
  • June 22: Live music from BitterSweet Nation and SheLyric, Rand Park Pavilion

More info here.

June 23 – Ankeny

4th Annual Juneteenth Festival

3 p.m.-9 p.m., Bandshell at Wagner Park, 410 West First St.

Live performances, music, vendors, artists, food trucks, a kids’ area and more.

More info here.

  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.

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