Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, commemorates the end of slavery in the south on June 19, 1865. While the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted on January 1, 1863, the law was not immediately enforced. Because of this, many enslaved African Americans did not know they were free until Juneteenth, over two years later.
On June 19, 1865, the Union General Gordon Granger and his army arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved African Americans had been freed by President Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
While many celebrate July 4, 1776, as Independence Day in the United States, for African Americans like myself, June 19, 1865, is our Freedom Day. It was later shortened to Juneteenth combining June and Nineteenth.
So, how can you talk to your kids about the history of Juneteenth? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Educate yourself with resources about Juneteenth
As we pursue social justice to create positive change in our nation and in our world, it has to begin at home. Juneteenth is a great way to start to open up the dialog. Having an open discussion regarding two “independence” days is a great way to start. One of the most important questions to consider is: Why do African Americans feel there is a need to celebrate June 19?
If you don’t know the answer, consider doing the following:
- Read Frederick Douglass’s speech on “The Meaning of July Fourth to the Negro” found in its entirety here.
- Read “This Day in History: The Good News of the Emancipation Proclamation Finally Reaches Texas” by David Hudson.
- Read about the History of Juneteenth here.
Share important lessons about Juneteenth with your children
After educating yourself about Juneteenth, share with your children what you’ve learned. You might also want to consider some of the following activities:
- Share this Juneteenth Video for Kids
- Have them color the Juneteenth Flag
- Play games to reinforce what they learned such as a Juneteenth Word Search
Celebrate Juneteenth with your family!
Discuss ways you can celebrate Juneteenth with your family!
Here are some ideas:
- Have a barbecue at home featuring red foods to symbolize the ingenuity and resilience of African Americans
- Decorate your front door and/or home with the red, white and blue as well as the Juneteenth Flag
- Have a moment of silence to those who have lost their lives in the fight for social justice and listen to the Black National Anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing
- Learn the history of "Life Every Voice and Sing"
- Lyrics to Lift Every Voice and Sing
- My favorite rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing
By educating our children and doing some of these simple actions, we can help the fight for social justice in our nation and in our world.