Celebrating Juneteenth

Oberlin College and the Juneteenth Planning Committee invite you to take part in celebrating Juneteenth with community events as well as learning more about Juneteenth and its impact.

Presidential Initiative Statement on Juneteenth

Juneteenth has grown in scope and breadth over the years and is now celebrated widely across the country, including on our campus and more broadly in the town of Oberlin. These celebrations exemplify a commitment to celebrate, in moments of pure joy, Black people’s right to live as free human beings. Despite the ongoing challenges of a nation still wrestling with a recognition of this right, Juneteenth allows African Americans to reflect on the resilience of their ancestors, even as they take up the charge, as Americans, to maintain a sustained conviction to equity and social justice.

Meredith M. Gadsby
Special Assistant to the President on Racial Equity and Diversity
Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Comparative American Studies
Cochair of Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity

Bill Quillen
Dean of the Conservatory
Cochair of Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity

Read the full statement

Juneteenth Events

June 18 and 19, 2021

ABUSUA’s Juneteenth Block Party

Friday, June 18; 3–7 p.m. at Tappan Square

Weather Update

The ABUSUA Block Party will be held indoors at Wilder Main due to expected rain.

Juneteenth Block Party.In partnership with Oberlin College’s Juneteenth Planning Committee, join ABUSUA for a Juneteenth Block Party. The Block Party will kick off events for the weekend as community members celebrate Juneteenth—also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation—a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States.

Light In The Tunnel: Reflections on Freedom

Friday, June 18; 8–10 p.m. at Wurtzel Theatre

Watch the livestream starting at 8 p.m.

Hands breaking chains (line drawing)Light in the Tunnel: Reflections of Freedom is a festival of praise, joy, and community, highlighting the incredible bounds that the multitude of departments and students have made in Black art. Black art is a culmination of life experience, both present and ancestral. It is a tale of hope for the future, and a reminder of how we got here. Most importantly, it is diverse and important, much like Black people themselves. Light in the Tunnel: Reflections on Freedom will show our Oberlin community and beyond that the bright spirit of Black people, though battered, cannot be broken.

Juneteenth Oberlin 2021 - African Americans: The Struggle, The Fight for Freedom, And Still Yet Invisible

Saturday, June 19; 9 a.m. to dusk at Tappan Square and Westwood Cemetery

Sankofa bird.Since June 8, 2004, Oberlin City Council passed a resolution establishing Juneteenth as an officially recognized day of commemoration and celebration for the city of Oberlin. Juneteenth Oberlin was incorporated that same year to facilitate the community recognition, celebration, promotion, and understanding of Oberlin’s officially declared and established Juneteenth holiday. Join the Oberlin Community, as they celebrate Juneteenth beginning at 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Tappan Square for a parade, food, games, and live music. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., the festivities will move to Westwood Cemetery. The city’s only cemetery, it was opened on Morgan Street in 1864, and it is a final resting place of a number of black and white soldiers who died in the Civil War, as well as some former slaves who came to Oberlin on the Underground Railroad.

Free Trolley Service to Lorain County’s Juneteenth Blues Fest

Saturday, June 19; 2:30–6:45 p.m.

An illustration of two Black women standing by a trolley holding up signs that read "Educate yourself and others on the history of Juneteenth" and "Support Black-owned businesses and invest in the community." Masks are required to ride the trolley.

The Bonner Center, in partnership with Lorain County Mobility Management, is sponsoring free transportation between Oberlin and the Lorain waterfront to encourage community members to participate in both Oberlin and Lorain Juneteenth events. Oberlin College & Conservatory students, faculty, and staff are welcome! Pick-up and drop-off in Oberlin will be outside Wilder Hall (see schedule below), with a drop-off option at the end of the day at Oberlin's Westwood Cemetery for the MAAFA observance.

Departure Schedule

Please note that these times are approximate.

  • 2:30 p.m. Wilder Hall to Lakeview Park, Lorain
  • 3:30 p.m. Lakeview Park to Wilder Hall
  • 4:30 p.m. Wilder Hall to Lakeview Park
  • 5:30 p.m. Lakeview Park to Wilder Hall
  • 6:15 p.m. Wilder Hall to Oberlin Westwood Cemetery MAAFA Commemoration
  • 6:45 p.m. Westwood Cemetery to Wilder Hall

Contact Sharon Pearson at 440-707-6477 or Tania Boster at tboster@oberlin.edu for more information.


A Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in Celebration of Juneteenth

A Reading of Fredrick Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

by Professor Charles Peterson


“Racism, as an institution, is interwoven into the fabric of American culture.”

Associate Professor Meredith Gadsby in “Here’s Why Juneteenth Matters,” Essence.com.

“Employers’ signal that Juneteenth is meant for celebration, not work, is a powerful message.”

Assistant Professor Tamika Nunley in “How to Move Corporate Juneteenth Holidays Beyond Virtue Signaling,” Fortune.com (subscription required).


Black Voices

Illustration of two white police officers staring at a Black man mowing a lawn on a suburban street.

Members of the Oberlin community—alumni, staff, and faculty—share their thoughts about race, racism, the past, and the present moment in the most recent Oberlin Alumni Magazine special feature, Black Voices.

Black Voices Expanded Web Edition

The Voice of the Spirit

The Voice of the Spirit video cover, described in the page.SongFest’s “The Voice of the Spirit – The Negro Spiritual: An American Genre for All” was a conversation held this week with four internationally renowned African American Opera singers, including  Oberlin Conservatory Associate Professor of Voice Katherine Jolly. These singers and pedagogues discuss their musical heritage and upbringing, the negro spiritual, and the performance practice of this important music.

Watch The Voice of the Spirit

Harriet Gibbs Marshall

A youthful Harriet Gibbs Marshall in a formal pose

Conservatory Associate Dean Chris Jenkins discusses the life and accomplishments of music educator Harriet Gibbs Marshall, who in 1889 became the first African-American woman to graduate from Oberlin Conservatory.

With around 2,500 printed titles, the Anti-Slavery Collection at Oberlin College Libraries provides significant value to researchers of American anti-slavery movements.

Historical photo of 20 men standing together, holding their hats.
The Oberlin Rescuers at Cuyahoga County Jail, April 1859.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Oberlin College Archives