Public Media Celebrates Juneteenth

June 13, 2024



Juneteenth commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States  ̶  June 19, 1865, the day that Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and issued an order proclaiming slaves in Texas free.

In 2024, the fourth year that Juneteenth is celebrated as a federal holiday, public media offers programs and resources focused on Black history, and live events and music celebrating Black freedom and achievement starting this weekend. Some examples:

WNYC’s Notes From America with Kai Wright travels to Houston for a live taping at the Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday, June 16. The program explores the legacy of the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, the first Black woman elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and a former member of the church. The episode will be produced in partnership with Houston Public Media and the We the People Coalition to air that evening and on stations across the country for Juneteenth.

Kai Wright
'Notes From America' host Kai Wright, photo by Matthew Septimus

Also in Houston, public radio station KTSU 90.9FM The Choice sponsors the Juneteenth Culture Fest this weekend featuring thematic performances by local artists telling the story of African Americans from 1865 to today, and the journey to the celebration of freedom. Musical artists include the Ernest Walker Band, led by the KTSU general manager. The free festival runs June 14-15 at Miller Outdoor Theatre and continues June 16 at Avenida Houston and Discovery Green with a series of events with live music, the KTSU 90.9FM The Vibe lounge, and a fireworks finale.

Minnesota Public Radio’s Urban Alternative Carbon Sound celebrates Juneteenth as well as its second anniversary with a night exploring the Black roots of techno, Friday, June 14 at Red Sea in Minneapolis. The night of dancing features DJs Blackmoonchild, Yasmeenah and Echo. 

Classical KING-FM in Seattle will features the music of Black composers and performers on Unmute The Voices on Saturday, June 15. Dr. Quinton Morris hosts the radio show and video series, which will focus on the late choral conductor and composer Moses Hogan and other great musicians in the Juneteenth preview.

The finale of Road to Rickwood, a four-part podcast on the history of Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, from WWNO (New Orleans) and WRKF (Baton Rouge) and distributed through the NPR Network, drops on Tuesday, June 18. Hosted by comedian and Alabama native Roy Wood Jr., the podcast tells the story the oldest professional baseball stadium in the country and its deep ties to the Negro Leagues, women's suffrage, and the Civil Rights Movement. Major League Baseball, which funding the podcast along with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, hosts a regular season game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants at Rickwood Field on Thursday, June 20.

Starting at midnight June 19, New York Public Radio's Classical WQXR marks Juneteenth with its fifth annual 24-hour marathon featuring composers and performers of African descent. Programming features more than 130 musical works, 75 performers and 55 composers including Jesse Montgomery, Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de St. Georges, Florence Price, Duke Ellington, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Margaret Bonds, Scott Joplin and Adolphus Hailstork. 

WRTI in Philadelphia celebrates Juneteenth through both classical and jazz programming. Classical WRTI  features music by composers, conductors, and performers of African descent from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. on June 19, with an emphasis on recordings released in the last year, including clarinetist Marcus Eley; the Sphinx Virtuosi; baritone Will Liverman; conductor Kellen Gray; Yannick Nezet-Seguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra; James Blachly and the Experiential Orchestra with music by Julia Perry; and composers Carlos Simon and Kevin Day. Evening Jazz features freedom songs by Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Nina Simone with host Greg Bryant from 6-9 pm EDT.

Also in Philadelphia, WRTI and WXPN will video stream the Black Music City grantee awards ceremony from World Cafe Live on NPR Live Sessions. The Black Music City Showcase, at 7 p.m. EDT, features performances by Black Music City grantees Owen Brown, Jr., Karen Moore, Amari Johnson, Andrea Spruill, and Maurice Chestnut.

WXPN also features Juneteenth programming all day on June 19, starting with a Juneteenth Mixtape celebrating the history of Black Americana music at 9 am EDT, followed by a Stax-Volt Records lunch with Mike V at noon, World Cafe featuring an interview and performance from Kamasi Washington at 2 pm; Highs in the (Funky) 70s with Dan Reed at 6 pm, a two-hour special episode of Culture Cypher Radio with John Morrison at 8 pm and 76 Degrees of Soul with Abdur Rahman, two hours of new and vintage soul, at 10 pm.

In Seattle, KEXP holds a live Juneteenth Broadcast from Midtown Squarea pop-up market in the Central District. The broadcast, at noon PDT on June 19, is open to the public and features sets from Larry Mizell Jr, Reverand Dollars, Lace Cadence, Stas Thee Boss, Vitamin D, and Riz.

NPR Live Sessions, the video hub of public radio music stations from the VuHaus Group, will feature recent station performances of African American artists on its carousel, video playlists, and its national “Song of the Day” video player, embedded on dozens of public media sites on June 19.

WORLD, the public media multiplatform hub for diverse documentary programs, has compiled 14 films to stream that champion Black stories, rights, and the continuing fight for equality. Included: Two Dollars and a Dream, the biography of Madame C.J. Walker by Stanley Nelson, and Missing Magic, a short film about a young poet in Birmingham, Alabama, becoming involved in local protests against decades of police brutality. “Missing Magic” was directed by Anissa Latham-Brown, as a part of Hindsight, a CPB-supported initiative in 2021 that resulted in six short films by filmmakers of color in the American South. Both films are available on YouTube.

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting offers “The Abolitionists” Interview Collection, comprising more than 50 raw interviews filmed for the three-part “American Experience”  miniseries that aired on PBS in 2013. The series follows the lives of prominent abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass, John Brown, Angelina Grimké, William Lloyd Garrison, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and explores the differing and often conflicting approaches to abolishing slavery in the United States.

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