Downtown Salt Lake City Celebrates Juneteenth

June 15, 2021 Written by Melissa Fields

It took more than two years for Union troops to arrive in Galveston, Texas to enforce the executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, called the Emancipation Proclamation. The day after the troops arrived in Galveston, Union General Gordon Granger, commander of the District of Texas, issued General Order No. 3, announcing the war's end and making slavery illegal across the state. (To be fair, Texas was not alone in its reticence: most Confederate states ignored the order until the military arrived in person to back it up.) Since then, observance of that day—June 19, 1865, known as Juneteenth—has slowly spread to the rest of the country, including here in Utah, where it has been officially observed on the third Saturday in June since former Governor Gary Herbert made it a state holiday in 2016. This year, Juneteenth is being celebrated throughout the month of June, including the following events in downtown Salt Lake City.

Tuesday, June 15 and Wednesday, June 16 

As part of its Black, Bold & Brilliant series—monthly film screenings and events focused on Black culture—the Utah Film Center will host pair of free virtual screenings. (Tickets are required and can be reserved here.) The first is the documentary, Nationtime, a report on the National Black Political Convention held in Gary, Indiana, in 1972, presented in partnership with Betty Sawyer and Utah Juneteenth Festival. Nationtime’s opening-night screening will be held on Tuesday, June 15 at 7 p.m. and will include a post-film discussion with Representative Sandra Hollins, Democratic National Committee Member Darlene McDonald, former Utah GOP Chairman James Evans and local luminaries Betty Sawyer and Byron Russell. (Nationtime will be available for screening June 15 to 21 or until all tickets are reserved.) On Wednesday, June 15 at 7 p.m., the Utah Film Center will screen Amazing Grace, a behind-the-scenes look at the recording of Aretha Franklin’s best-selling album and the highest-selling live gospel music album of all time, presented in partnership with KRCL, Utahn Convos and Utah Juneteenth Festival. (Amazing Grace will be available for screening June 16 to 22 or until all tickets are reserved.)

Saturday, June 19

Strength In Shades is hosting a Juneteenth March, Pop-Up Market & Block Party at Washington Square Park (451 S. State St), beginning at 1:30 p.m. The event begins with a solidarity march at 1:30 p.m. A pop-up market will run from 3 to 7 p.m., followed by a block party until 9 p.m. Events are free and open to the public.   

The first-annual Juneteenth Gala will be held at The Leonardo (209 E. 500 South) from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. This event celebrates the history and contributions of African Americans in Utah through art, music and live performances. Cocktails and appetizers will be served from 8 to 10 p.m.; the evening’s concert and dance party get underway at 11 p.m. Tickets are $35 to $50 and can be purchased here

The Excellence in the Community concert series returns to live performances with a Juneteenth celebration concert featuring the Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin Quintet (jazz standards, R&B, soul and funk). This FREE, in-person event will be held at the Gallivan Center (239 S. Main St), beginning at 8 p.m.

Sunday, June 20

This is the last day the exhibit Sorting Out Race will be on display at The Leonardo (209 E. 500 South, open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.). Sorting Out Race examines racial identity and stereotypes in the context of thrift store donations. Presented in partnership with the Utah Black Chamber.  

Saturday, June 26

The Salt Lake Juneteenth celebration at The Gateway will feature a black-owned business expo, art exhibits, food trucks, live music and entertainment, a kids’ corner, spoken word performances, roller skating, a film screening, barber battle and much more. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and is free and open to the public.