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Juneteenth: An Opportunity to Learn AND Celebrate

Guest Contributor: LaNisha Cassell, Executive Director - African American Museum of Iowa

For nearly thirty years, the African American Museum of Iowa (AAMI) has educated Iowa communities authentically and unapologetically, answering a need across the state to share ALL of America’s history. As current events continue to open eyes and raise consciousness, the Museum’s role in the community has never been clearer. We have the opportunity and the ability to share American history that has consistently been omitted, and there is perhaps no better example of this than Juneteenth.

What is Juneteenth?

While learning about and celebrating Juneteenth has been customary for some, many American first learned about the holiday when it became a federal holiday in 2021. When did you first learn about Juneteenth? Was it part of the curriculum in your grade school, was it taught in college, something you learned as an adult or are you just learning about it now?

Since June 19, 1865, when the last of the United States’ enslaved people were finally notified of their freedom, Juneteenth has been commemorated annually. In the age-old and present battle about what should be included and excluded in our classrooms, we must ask ourselves why we are told to remember and “never forget” some of our nation’s biggest historical tragedies and triumphs but can never talk about, remember or even teach ALL of the truths that have permeated our history. Who gets to decide what parts of our American story are more or less palatable or worth authentic inclusion in our textbooks?

At the AAMI we strive to preserve, exhibit and teach Iowa’s African American heritage. We encourage engagement, conversation and reflection. In the face of racial injustice, we offer educational and interactive programs striving toward understanding, equality and justice. The late poet Maya Angelou said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Juneteenth Celebration 2022

As we all aspire to do better, the African American Museum of Iowa is here as a resource for ALL Iowans and visitors who want to be proactive about learning history that has long been excluded from our textbooks and continues to shape our identities today. With that said you are invited to the Museum’s Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 18. Our annual festival will be held at NewBo City Market from 11am - 6pm, with a mayoral proclamation, all-day stage performances, community vendor booths and more.

Community of Cedar Rapids

The Cedar Rapids area has a rich history and diverse community. Join us in discovering, celebrating and supporting all the local black-owned businesses and restaurants in the area. Some of our favorites include 100% Over Racism, Conversation Pieces by Marcy, Crab Attack Cajun Seafood Shack and the 80s-themed bar The Rewind.

Learn More

Visit to learn more and explore past celebrations. But don’t stop with Juneteenth. The AAMI provides educational tools year-round through relevant exhibits, programs, collections, traveling resources and events. Why? Because Black history is Iowa’s history.

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