It took more than 150 years for the Juneteenth celebration to wedge deeply into pop culture.
Now it’s there, filling our TV sets with related shows.
That starts Friday, when TBS has a double-feature and ABC has a two-hour special, complete with music, features and Barack Obama. It wraps up Sunday, with CBS showing “Selma” … which will already have aired three times Saturday (the actual holiday) on cable.
That Saturday has a flood of specials, including a new one (the History’s Channel’s “Fight the Power”) and lots of reruns. Viewers can watch Tracee Ellis Ross in nine-hours of “Black-ish” reruns … or skip the final half-hour and see a profile of her mother, Diana Ross.
The holiday marks the final collapse of slavery. The Confederates had surrendered on May 9, 1865, but Texans continued to have slaves until a Union general’s proclamation on June 18.
The first celebration was in 1866, but the holiday didn’t reach broad visibility. Ralph Ellison (“Invisible Man”) spent 40 years working on a “Juneteenth” novel; a portion of it was finally printed in 1999.
Donald Trump hadn’t heard of the holiday when he scheduled his first rally of the 2020 campaign. The timing drew an uproar – on Juneteenth … in the summer of the George Floyd protests … in Tulsa, the site of America’s worst race massacre. Trump moved it back a day and Juneteenth grew in visibility.
That weekend, ABC and a few others had TV specials. A year later, there’s a cascade, including:
THURSDAY (June 17)
– A “Say It Loud” edition: “Are Black People Truly Free?: Juneteenth and the Continuing Fight for Liberation,” www.pbs.org.
– “Civil War (Or, Who Do We Think We Are?),” Peacock. This travels the country, hearing different accounts of what happened in the Civil War.
(Both arrive via streaming and will remain available; on Saturday, pbs.org adds “Slavery By Another Name.)
FRIDAY (June 18)
– “Friday Night Vibes,” 7:30 p.m., TBS. This is the debut of a weekly watch party, in which Tiffany Haddish will chat with friends and catch a double-feature. Some future weeks will have comedies (Haddish’s specialty), but this one is tailored to the Juneteenth weekend, with “Creed” (2015) and, at 10:15, “Creed II” (2018). Deon Cole co-hosts and Snoop Dogg visits.
— “Juneteenth: Together We Triumph,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. The “Soul of a Nation” team returns, with another ambitious show. This one has music by Chloe Bailey (half of Chloe x Halle), Leon Bridges and country star Jimmy Allen. Michael Strahan interviews Barack Obama; another feature looks at new links that Blacks have formed with small-town whites and with Asian-American religious leaders. Other stories look at soul food and at Black farmers, artists and businesses.
SATURDAY (June 19, Juneteenth)
– The Ovation cable channel has an eight-hour string of documentary profiles, starting with Beyonce at 6 a.m. ET. Also: Whoopi Goldberg, 7 a.m.; Richard Pryor, 8; Eddie Murphy, 9; Morgan Freeman, 10; Spike Lee, 11; Denzel Washington, noon; Muhammad Ali, 1 p.m.
– FXX has a nine-hour “Black-ish” marathon. It starts (7 a.m.) and ends (3:30 p.m.) with the show’s episode about Juneteenth. Other subjects range from police violence to Black history.
– FX has a movie marathon, with “Selma” (2014) at 7 a.m.; “The Hate U Give” (2018) at 10; Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” (2018) at 1 p.m.; the Oscar-winning “Green Book” (2018) at 4 p.m.; “Hidden Figures” (2016) at 7 and 10 p.m.; and “Green Book” again at 1 a.m.
– More movies are on TBS. Michael B. Jordan stars in the “Creed” films at noon and 2:30 p.m., then co-stars in the epic “Black Panther” (2018) at 5.
– The classic “Carmen Jones” (1954) is at 1:30 p.m. on FX Movies, followed by more-recent films – “The Hate U Give” (2018) at 3 p.m.; “Get Out” (2017) at 5:50 p.m.; “Selma” (2014) at 8 and 10:40 p.m.; and “Get Out” (2014) at 1:20 a.m.
– Music films are on Turner Classic Movies. It’s gospel at noon ET, jazz from 2-6 p.m., “Jimi Hendrix” (1973) at 6; “Sparkle” (1976) at 8; and “Krush Groove” (1985) at 10.
– Music profiles are on the AXS channel. It’s Motown at 3 p.m. ET; Diana Ross and the Supremes, 3:30; the New York hip hop scene, 4; James Brown, 4:30; Stevie Wonder, 5; Prince, 5:30; Lenny Kravitz, 6:30 and then the highlight – a Tina Turner profile at 7 p.m. and her 1990 concert (before 70,000 people in Barcelona) at 8, with those repeating at 10:30 and 11:30 p.m.
– “Fight the Power: The Movements That Changed America,” 8 p.m., History. Co-produced by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it ranges from the early civil rights protests to the current Black Lives Matter ones, plus other movements involving rights for gays, women and union members. That repeats at 2:06 a.m., surrounded by documentaries on the Tuskegee Airmen, 7 p.m.; the Tulsa massacre, 9:02 p.m.; civil rights, 11:05; and Tulsa, again, at 12:03 a.m.
– “Selma” (2014), 8-11 p.m., CBS. In a relatively late change, the network sets aside its regular shows, to wrap up the Juneteenth weekend with this film about Martin Luther King’s historic march. It drew an Oscar for the triumphant song “Glory” and a nomination for best picture.