Juneteenth is a celebration of the day in 1865 when word of Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation — which had been signed two years prior and freed all enslaved people — made its way to Texas.
A combination of the words “June” and “Nineteenth,” Juneteenth was first made an official Texas state holiday in 1979, but since then, people have begun to honor the day (also called Emancipation Day) all around the United States.
Juneteenth is a day for African Americans and Blacks to honor their culture and history, as well as a day for non-Blacks to learn more about this significant day in our country, including why it took over two years for the news to get to Texas and how freed slaves were treated as a result. Above all, it’s a day meant for self-reflection, understanding the truths of the past and the realities of the present.
Here are some ideas for ways to Celebrate Juneteenth with Your Kids:
Read and Learn About Juneteenth as a Family
Celebrating this holiday is only meaningful if you understand what’s being celebrated. Start off by checking out some of the many books that have been written about this holiday and discuss them as a family! If you can’t get your hands on these before June 19, there’s a good chance you can listen to readalongs of some of these on YouTube.
Picture Books & Young Readers
- All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom
By Angela Johnson
- Freedom’s Gifts
By Valerie Wesley
- Juneteenth Jamboree
By Carole Boston Weatherford
- Juneteenth for Mazie
By Floyd Cooper
Chapter Books / Teens
- Come Juneteenth
By Ann Rinaldi
By Rachel Koestler-Grack
By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
- Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom
By Charles Taylor
- Juneteenth: Freedom Day
By Muriel Miller Branch
- Let’s Celebrate Emancipation Day & Juneteenth
By Barbara deRubertis
- The Story of Juneteenth: An Interactive History Adventure
By Steven Otfinoski
- Tiny’s Emancipation
By Linda Baten Johnson
Create a Juneteenth Feast
Red foods — a symbol of the resilience and ingenuity of enslaved people — are customary on a Juneteenth table. Strawberries, watermelon, red-colored juice, cherry pie, red velvet cake, sausages, hot dogs and barbecue are just some of the red-hued foods you can include in your feast. And don’t forget the soul food: fried chicken, collard greens, mac & cheese. Is your mouth watering yet? Let your kids help you make the menu and decorate the table, and then discuss the significance and history behind the meal you’re sharing.
Make Juneteenth Decorations
You can honor and learn more about this holiday through decor! Do research into where enslaved Blacks came from and honor those places by making a banner of African flags at home with construction paper. Or make your very own Juneteenth flag.
Visit a Juneteenth Celebration (in person or online)
Unfortunately, the pandemic once again put a pause on many gatherings and festivals, including ones that were planned to celebrate Juneteenth. But fortunately, many Juneteenth celebrations have moved online, so you can celebrate virtually from anywhere in the country. Here are some of the virtual events happening this week:
- Check out BLKFREEDOM.org, where you can download and share Juneteenth fact cards, and download a Juneteenth flag coloring page. Sign up for their email list to keep tabs on this year’s Juneteenth celebration.
- Visit The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which has re-opened with modified hours, timed ticketing and advanced cleaning protocols. Or explore their online learning resources.
- Take part in the Virtual Juneteenth Celebration on June 19 presented by the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis.
- Juneteenth Community Day Celebration by The Amistad Center for Arts and Culture in Connecticut
Learn about African American history and traditions through art, storytelling, music and dance.