This year… A Virtual Juneteenth at Montpelier

Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas in 1980, and a number of other states subsequently followed suit. It is the oldest known celebration honoring the end of slavery in the United States.

When I was growing up in immediately post-war Southern California I knew the name Juneteenth, after all my great Aunt DeeDee was the president of her local NAACP, but it wasn’t a public holiday, just a historical event that only Black folks knew about.

I was busy being a farmer in South Dakota when Juneteenth began to be a nationally recognized day of recognition that I mostly heard about on public radio.  So it wasn’t till I came to Virginia and became a historian that Juneteenth became an annual event in which I took some part. 

Which brings me to Montpelier.  There, for several years, I have had the great pleasure of talking Emancipation, slavery, and African American foodways for their annual event.

Cooking over an open fire and talking to the visitors has always been a long and fulfilling day for me. I usually make my biggest 5 gallon cast iron kettle full of chicken stew, and many, many, many corn pone (small fried corn cakes) to share.  Last year my helpers and I fed over 250 visitors hot samples fresh from the griddle.

Sigh!! As you can well imagine the COVID shutdown has us presenters and museum personnel deeply disappointed at the necessary cancellation of the live event.

Hurrah! Montpelier has created a VIRTUAL JUNETEENTH to be online and I get to be part of it. I am so very delighted.  Here I am with the lovely videographer Jeni as we film inside one of the South Yard Dwellings.

For dates of release do check at the Montpelier website:


  • Paul Roundy

    I just saw you on the show A Taste of Hstory that is on Amazon Prime. Like many people today I have become much more aware of my food sourcing and food quality. I am always looking for good sources to provide me information about both of those. I was totally taken in by your quiet elegance. I had to look you up and found your website. I hope to learn more by following your website and resources etc.

  • Leni Ashmore Sorensen

    Thank you for your kind words! I do hope you enjoy the website and if you click on ‘subscribe’ you will receive the free e-newsletter each month with a recipe and comments. Happy cooking!

  • Ann Hall

    I just watched you doing a presentation at Monticello and learned so much. I know I will enjoy your newsletters. You do have a most interesting background! Thank you .

  • Leni Ashmore Sorensen

    Thank you for your kind words. It is such a wonderful space to work in! And thank you for subscribing to the newsletter. Regards, Leni

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