How to teach kids about Juneteenth

How to teach kids about Juneteenth

Juneteenth is an important holiday celebrating the freedom of enslaved Black people in the Confederate states. Each year, on June 19th, people commemorate this holiday with celebration and reflection.
 
On June 19, 1865, the news that enslaved people were finally free reached Galveston, Texas. President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years earlier, on January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation declared all enslaved people in Confederate rebellious states free. However, in some parts of the Confederacy, particularly Texas, the institution of slavery persisted.
 
On December 6, 1865 (that same year), the 13th amendment was ratified, which abolished slavery in the entire United States. However, it's important to note that the 13th amendment only abolished slavery in some forms, as it did not abolish enslavement as punishment for a crime.
 
The following year, on June 19th, 1966, the first Juneteenth celebration was held in Galveston, Texas. As African Americans moved away from the south, the celebrations spread across the country.
 
In recent decades, many states began to officially recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. On June 19, 2021, after years of advocacy, Juneteenth became a federal holiday in the United States. This advocacy was led by the incredible Opal Lee, who is now known as the grandmother of Juneteenth.
 
Juneteenth is an important part of the ongoing struggle for racial equality and justice. While it serves as a commemoration of the end of slavery for many, it also serves as a reminder of the work that still needs to be done to dismantle systemic racism.
 
Want to introduce this information to your learners? Show them this 2-minute explainer video: "Why do we Celebrate Juneteenth? Explained for Kids."
 
To go even deeper with your learning, here are some picture books to read together:
 
This book introduces kids to the history and evolution of Juneteenth with colorful illustrations and a timeline. It details how enslaved people in Texas learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865, and how Juneteenth grew from "Jubilee Day" into a national holiday in 2021, highlighting its enduring significance and the spread of its traditions across the country.
 
2. Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford
During a Juneteenth community celebration, Cassie learns about the day when enslaved people in Texas were freed, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Curious about the delayed news, she explores the significance of this historic event with her parents.
 
3. Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free by Alice Faye Duncan
Follow Black activist Opal Lee's inspiring journey in this book to make Juneteenth a recognized holiday for all. Growing up in Texas, Opal learns the significance of Juneteenth from her family and, despite facing personal hardship, dedicates herself to promoting "freedom for all" and achieving national
recognition for the holiday.
 
4. All Different Now by Angela Johnson
This book celebrates Juneteenth through the eyes of a young girl, depicting the day freedom finally reached the last enslaved people in the South. It includes a timeline, glossary, and notes from the author and illustrator, making
it a comprehensive and beautiful portrayal of African American Emancipation Day.
 
5. A Flag for Juneteenth by Kim Taylor
On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, General Gordon Granger announced the freedom of African Americans in Texas, marking the beginning of Juneteenth. This book portrays a close-knit community of enslaved African Americans on a Texas plantation, the day before their freedom is declared. The story centers on young Huldah, who is turning ten, and follows her and her community as they process the news and celebrate by creating a community freedom flag.
 
6. Free at Last by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle
This lyrical book celebrates Juneteenth,
tracing its solemn origins in 1865 Galveston, Texas, to modern-day observances across the United States. It honors the strength of Black Americans and highlights the enduring significance of the holiday.
 
7. Born on the Water by Nikole-Hannah Jones & Renée Watson
In this story, a young student receives a family tree assignment but can only trace back three generations. With her grandmother's help, she learns that their ancestors were brought to America by white enslavers in 1619. Before this, they had a home, a land, and a language. Through her family's history, she discovers how those who were "born on the water" survived and persevered.
 
8. My Name Is Truth by Ann Turner
This book tells the remarkable true story of Isabella Baumfree, a formerly enslaved person who transformed into the iconic preacher and orator Sojourner Truth. A pivotal figure in the abolitionist and women's rights movements, Sojourner spoke out for equal rights nearly a century before the civil rights movement. It includes a historical note, an archival photo, and a list of suggested readings.
 
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