Press Release

Events will highlight Ida B. Wells, George Washington Carver, and the 1893 World’s Fair

On Monday, June 20, the Field Museum is celebrating Juneteenth, the federal holiday commemorating the end of chattel slavery in the U.S., with a series of events and Free Admission for Illinois residents.

The day’s events connect the Juneteenth holiday to Chicago and the Field Museum with discussion related to the 1893 World’s Fair. The Field Museum was created to house items displayed at the Fair, which largely excluded African Americans. The programming will highlight connections between the Fair and historical figures like Ida B. Wells and George Washington Carver whose work is still relevant to the city and the Field Museum today.

 “Celebrating Juneteenth is critical in acknowledging the Field’s own colonial history and making a commitment to work towards an anti-racist future,” says Sara Furr, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the Field Museum.

Juneteenth programming on Monday, June 20 includes:

10 a.m. - “Exploring Juneteenth: How the 1893 World's Fair Connects to the Legacy of Ida B. Wells and the Continued Quest for Freedom” - Michelle Duster

The day will begin with a presentation by author, public historian, and professor Michelle Duster, who is also a great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells. Wells was a journalist, suffragist, and civil rights activist. In the talk “Exploring Juneteenth: How the 1893 World's Fair Connects to the Legacy of Ida B. Wells and the Continued Quest for Freedom,” Duster will discuss why there was such controversy about the limited representation of African Americans at the Fair, as well as the social, economic, and political realities that African Americans faced after the Civil War despite promises of freedom and equality.

“Juneteenth is an important holiday for African Americans as it celebrates freedom from 246 years of chattel slavery in this country,” Duster says. “Although it started in Galveston, Texas in 1866, the celebrations were passed down through generations and spread through migrations. By examining the protests of the 1893 World's Fair, we can reflect on the continued quest for freedom, justice, and equality for all.”

11 a.m. - 1 p.m. - Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver highlighted in the Grainger Science Hub

Items from the Field’s collections will explore abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s role as a representative of the Haitian Pavilion at the World’s Fair. Specimens from our behind-the-scenes botany collections and the Museum’s own Artist in Residence will also pay homage to George Washington Carver, whose painting Yucca and Cactus won an honorable mention at the Fair.

All day - Plant Medicine

Guests can also visit Plant Medicine, an exhibition chronicling previously vacant lots in Chicago that have been transformed into gardens that provide healthy food and new strategies in neighborhoods facing structural racism. 

Entry to Plant Medicine and all Juneteenth events is included in basic admission, which is free on June 20. On Free Days, Illinois residents can only redeem free passes or discounted tickets in person. Proof of residency is required.