The Robbins House, opposite the Old North Bridge. Photo by Laurie O’Neill

Juneteenth commemoration: a ‘beautiful community gathering’ 

June 18, 2024

By Laurie O’Neill — Correspondent

It’s a day to commemorate African-American history and culture and to reflect on how slavery affected our community and the nation. 

The Concord Museum will present a program of events on Juneteenth, June 19, in partnership with the Robbins House, a landmark of Black history in Concord. 

Attendees can “learn about the history of Juneteenth and the ending of slavery in the United States,” says Allison Shilling, deputy director and director of engagement at the Museum. 

“We can also celebrate the continued vibrancy of diverse cultures in Concord today,” she says.  

Congress voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2021, and the town first observed it in 2023. Last year’s commemoration followed the Select Board’s signing of a proclamation that declared June 19 Juneteenth National Independence Day.

In addition, the Board amended its flag policy to provide for the flying of the Juneteenth flag along with the American flag in Monument Square, and has approved the flag raising again for this year’s holiday. 

Coming together

Juneteenth refers to when Gordon Granger, a Union general, arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to inform enslaved African Americans of their freedom and let them know the Civil War had ended. 

This June 19, at 10 a.m., the Boston-based Benkadi Drum & Dance Company will perform traditional West African singing, drumming, and dancing at the Museum.

“Benkadi” means “coming together sweetly” in the Bamanankan language of Mali, “and the event will be just that — a beautiful community gathering,” according to Shilling. 

The Benkadi Drum & Dance Company. Courtesy photo

At 11 a.m., families can visit the Robbins House, where the celebration will continue through the afternoon with food and music.

The Robbins House is a 544-square-foot, early 19th-century two-family structure that once stood on an isolated farm along the Concord River. It was inhabited by the first generation of descendants of formerly enslaved African American Revolutionary War veteran Caesar Robbins and Jack Garrison, who fled enslavement in New Jersey to live as a free man in Concord. 

One of the children born and raised in the house was Ellen Garrison, an African-American educator, abolitionist, and early Civil Rights activist. She could not have predicted that she would be at the center of a controversy over whether or not to name Concord’s new middle school in her honor.

In 2010, the two-family house was saved from demolition, moved to its current site across from the Old North Bridge, and restored. 

Also at 11 a.m., a walking tour will start at the Old North Bridge lower lot. Participants will hear about the Concord men and women who played a crucial role in the abolitionist movement in the years leading up to the Civil War. The walk will cover more than 1.5 miles on hilly, unpaved terrain. 

On Saturday, June 22, the Museum will present “An Evening with Tiya Miles on Harriet Tubman.” National Book Award-winning author Miles will join Pulitzer Prize-winning local historian Jacqueline Jones for a conversation on the myth and truth behind Tubman, who escaped slavery and led others to freedom as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

The Benkadi performance and walking tour are free, but advanced registration is required as participation is limited. The Tubman program is on June 22 from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Museum and is free for members, $10 for non-members, and free for virtual. Visit for more information and to register.