How to Teach and Celebrate the History of Juneteenth with Kids
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This year, teach your kids and your family about the history and importance of Juneteenth—also known as Freedom Day. Juneteenth, which stands for June Nineteenth, is an important holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It is important to understand and celebrate this too-often overlooked moment in American history. By discussing this holiday, children will learn about issues of freedom, slavery, justice, and the fight for equity. When they learn about these issues at a young age, children can grow to be understanding, kind, and compassionate adults. Try using this article as a template for discussing Juneteenth with your own kids.
The History of Juneteenth
On June 19th, 1865 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and declare that all 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were freed. Years earlier in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln had already issued the Emancipation Proclamation that announced all enslaved people in Confederate states would be free. However, this proclamation would be difficult to enforce and would not happen immediately. In Texas, slavery had continued. When the war came to a close in the spring of 1865, U.S. General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and read the order that all enslaved people were free. But even this order was not enforced immediately. Some enslavers withheld this information until after harvest season.
A year later, freedmen in Texas organized a celebration called “Jubilee Day” on June 19th, that would become an annual celebration. In 1872, a group of former Texas slaves bought 10 acres of land to celebrate the anniversary of their emancipation and called it “Emancipation Park.” Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth a holiday in 1980.
The Importance of Juneteenth
Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of African Americans from slavery in the U.S. It is a vital moment in American history and Black history. This is a day of remembrance. Many black Americans refer to this day as a “second Independence Day.” While this is a momentous day in history, it’s also important to remember that the fight for justice is ongoing. There are still so many systemic oppressions that black people face today.
How to Celebrate Juneteenth with Your Family
On this day, take some time to honor the black community and celebrate Black culture. Here are some ideas on how to celebrate Juneteenth:
- Have a special backyard barbeque to commemorate the holiday. The sharing of food has been a Juneteenth celebration tradition since the mid-1800’s. And as a Texas-rooted holiday, what better way to celebrate than with barbeque and family?
- Hold a neighborhood bike parade. Celebrate this “second Independence Day” by singing songs, honking horns, and biking around your neighborhood. Kids can decorate their bikes with streamers too.
- Support the black community and celebrate black culture. Visit a black-owned restaurant, donate to a community organization that supports black youth, listen to music by black artists, or read a book together by a black author.
- Have kids draw and color pictures. Ask your kids to think about what it means to be free. What does fairness look like? How can we show kindness and fairness to others? Have your kids draw a picture of what freedom or fairness looks like. This could be a picture of kids holding hands or helping each other. It could be a picture of people celebrating, based on what they learned about Juneteenth.
- Share what you have with others. From its origins Juneteenth has involved large gatherings, a feeling of closeness and love. Spread kindness to your community by sharing with others. Make food to celebrate and share it with your neighbors, friends, and family. Help a neighbor or a friend. Have kids write kind message for classmates or friends.