June 15, 2020 /
Jona Elwell

Nature Based Ways to Mark Juneteenth

It’s Juneteenth on Friday – the oldest nationally observed commemoration of the end of slavery in the nation! Marking the date that the last enslaved people learned of their freedom, the month of June and the nineteenth day were combined to form the word Juneteenth. From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. Juneteenth is an official holiday recognized here in DC and in over 43 states. Let’s reflect on both our history of fighting for emancipation, equality, and equity and the tremendous work we still have to do

Photo courtesy Walter Smalling, Historic American Buildings Survey

While it’s closed due to the ongoing pandemic, you still can (virtually) tour Cedar Hill, home of the Lion of Anacostia, noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass. After escaping slavery in Maryland, Douglass was committed to freedom and he dedicated his life to achieving justice for all Americans, and in particular African-Americans, women and minority groups. A talented writer, powerful speaker and passionate abolitionist he envisioned America as an inclusive nation strengthened by diversity and free of discrimination. Douglass’s legacy is preserved at Cedar Hill, known to us as the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in historic Anacostia.


We’re particularly fond of admiring the property’s 130+ year-old massive and magnificent South Magnolia trees, which are officially in the Witness Tree Protection Program and were recently listed among the most unusual trees in DC. The southern magnolia at Frederick Douglass’ home. Photo by Frederick Douglass National Historic Site





And, of course, there is always the Lincoln Memorial built to honor the ‘Great Emancipator’. As you wander around the Mall, take note of the trees around you – we’ve inventoried a number of them with our partners at the National Parks Service.





Another magnificent tree is the Osage-Orange. Right outside what was Lincoln’s summer cottage located at the Armed Forces Retirement Home.





Whatever you decide to do to mark Juneteenth, keep the central tenant of the holiday in mind and work to make it a reality – nobody’s free until everybody’s free.