Introduction

Juneteenth is the annual holiday which commemorates the abolishment of slavery in the United States, celebrated on June 19th. On June 19, 1865, federal troops traveled to Galveston, Texas, to pass on the message that the Civil War had ended and that all African American slaves should be freed. Fifteen years later, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas, and over the next few decades, 46 other states followed suit. Teaching students about Juneteenth provides an opportunity to bring the conversation of racism and discrimination to the classroom while also commemorating the end of slavery.

Resources

There are many resources available online for teaching students about Juneteenth. Though many consider this holiday significant, it is overlooked by many school systems; thus, it is important that educators teach students about this monumental day in their classrooms. The materials below will provide educators with information that may help students learn about Juneteenth.

Lesson Plans

  1. Leaders 4SC Forces: Leaders 4SC provides a variety of Task Forces that provoke students to think critically about key issues as they roleplay as decision-makers and brainstorm well-detailed solutions. Each Task Force comes with step-by-step instructions, Google slide templates to be used with virtual breakout rooms, and topic-specific questions to get students started. The activities can be completed either individually or as part of a group. A fun Task Force is Reform The Justice System.
  2. Celebrate Juneteenth!: This lesson plan from ReadWriteThink encourages students to compare the celebrations of Juneteenth and Fourth of July with a Venn diagram, in order to draw conclusions about the ways people celebrate and define freedom in the United States. There are four different websites presented, which explore Juneteenth, the Emancipation Proclamation, and other related concepts that students will find. This activity is a bit open-ended, so it may take a bit more time for educators to set it up the way they want, depending on what their goals are for the activity. 
  3. Celebrate Juneteenth 2020: Teach For America provides an abundance of teaching resources for educators to utilize in the classroom when teaching students about this important holiday. These resources include books, videos, speeches, articles, movies, lesson plans, teaching strategies, and classroom guides. Each of these materials will help students understand the history of Juneteenth and its importance in America. 
  4. 17 Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth With Kids: WeAreTeachers has compiled a list of seventeen ways to celebrate Juneteenth with kids. The recommended materials on this page include books, videos, and other teaching resources. At the bottom of the page, there is a link which will bring educators to a list of 21 anti-racism videos to share with young audiences. Take a look through these resources and see if any would prove beneficial in the classroom!

Articles

  1. Teaching Juneteenth: Teaching Tolerance has published a brief article on teaching students about Juneteenth and empowering them to advocate for change. Topics touched upon include culture as resistance, backlash to freedom, understanding emancipation, and American ideals. Ideally, through using the advice and information in this article along with other lesson plans and ideas, educators will give students the tools they need to advocate for “narratives and experiences that have been erased or forgotten.”
  2. Juneteenth Should Be Taught In Schools: Forbes offers a short article explaining why Juneteenth should be taught in schools in the United States. Unfortunately, many Americans are unaware of Juneteenth because the holiday is not taught in their schools. This piece will further convince educators to teach students about Juneteenth and give them some insight as to why teaching this holiday in school is important.
  3. Four Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth with Students: Edutopia provides four ways that educators can celebrate Juneteenth with students. Suggestions include hosting a debate or oratory contest, sponsoring an anti-racism demonstration, planning a field trip centered around civil rights, and inviting a community speaker who works to preserve African American history and culture.
  4. Observing Juneteenth in 2020: The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) shares a piece on observing Juneteenth in 2020. The author writes on how this year’s celebrations will be different and provides stories (via video) which educators can use in the classroom if they want their students to learn more about “the historical context for today’s conversations around racism, freedom, and the long shadow of slavery.”

Informational Sites

  1. What Is Juneteenth?: HISTORY provides a wealth of information on Juneteenth, specifically discussing the background of the holiday, including the Emancipation Proclamation along with the creation of Juneteenth and slavery in Texas. THere is also a video under the article on the Emancipation Proclamation which may help students better understand the abolishment of slavery.
  2. So You Want to Learn About Juneteenth?: The New York Times provides an article explaining Juneteenth and the most common questions surrounding this annual holiday. From this article, not only will both educators and students learn the basic facts about Juneteenth, but they will also find insight into Juneteenth’s status as a national holiday, why Juneteenth became so important in 2020, and why the President Trump’s plans to hold a rally on June 19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma drew criticism. [Note: a subscription may be required to view this article.]
  3. Juneteenth: Encyclopaedia Britannica offers a bit of information on Juneteenth, including its origins, whether or not it’s a national holiday, how it’s celebrated, how the American Civil Rights Movement affected Juneteenth celebrations, and more.

Conclusion

Teaching students about Juneteenth is necessary because in order to change the current systemic racism in our society, we need to understand the legacy of slavery and remember that the fight for racial equality is not over. The resources provided will give educators the tools to teach their students about Juneteenth and its importance.

Additional Resources

  1. What is Juneteenth?: CNN provides a one-minute video detailing the celebrations commemorating the end of slavery in the United States and the history behind Juneteenth. For educators teaching in a classroom where there are few students with knowledge of this holiday, this video may serve as a good introduction to the topic. 
  2. 9 Things to Know About the History of Juneteenth: NBC presents a list of nine important facts about the history of Juneteenth. This list is a good overview of the lead-up to Juneteenth, the monumental events in Texas, and the 1980 “Emancipation Day in Texas.”
  3. Activists Are Pushing to Make Juneteenth a National Holiday. Here’s the History Behind Their Fight: TIME has published an article on the history of Juneteenth, including its origins, the movement to make Juneteenth a national holiday, and what the holiday means today. This piece is extremely informative, providing students with relevant information on Juneteenth’s importance in today’s society.
  4. Juneteenth | All About the Holidays: PBS provides a one-minute video on Juneteenth geared towards students in grades K-5. This clip may be a good way to introduce the concept of this holiday to students, as most are unfortunately unaware of the history behind Juneteenth and its importance to modern-day society.