Published June 9, 2021

New London — Connecticut Landmarks’ Hempsted Houses is partnering with several organizations and welcoming visitors this weekend for New London’s 7th annual Juneteenth Celebration.

The free event, happening Friday and Saturday, will highlight the African American history of the site and surrounding neighborhood. Visitors are encouraged to wear masks and socially distance. Donations are welcome.

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to proclaim the slaves had been freed when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

The festivities begin at 6 p.m. Friday with a community campfire discussion led by the founder of the Slave Dwelling Project, Joseph McGill. He will speak about how he locates and preserves slave dwellings.

“This is a unique opportunity for visitors to learn about his work around the country .... The conversation flows powerfully whenever McGill visits historic sites," said Olivia Sayah, the Hempsted Houses site administrator.

The official celebration will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, featuring music, dancers, activities and crafts for children and a dash of history. City Councilors Reona Dyess and Curtis Goodwin will act as emcees and council President Efraín Dominguez will give the keynote speech. Public Art for Racial Justice Education, a newly formed group, will present a diptych painting and New London Poet Laureate Josh Brown will perform.

The event is being held in partnership with the New London branch of the NAACP and the Opportunities Industrialization Center; a variety of food prepared by OIC's culinary students and friends will be available for sale. The event also is supported in part by the Frank Loomis Palmer Fund, Bank of America, N.A., trustee; the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut; and the Chelsea Groton Foundation Inc.

The Hempsted Houses are located at 11 Hempstead St. For more information, visit or; email; or call (860) 443-7949.