Juneteenth Lessons for All Ages

Juneteenth, which is short for June Nineteenth, marks the day that U.S. federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas. They went to ensure that all enslaved African Americans were freed. Black history is essential and integral to American history, and Juneteenth lessons are an opportunity to emphasize this in the classroom. Juneteenth is the oldest celebration of the legal end of slavery in the United States. On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This proclamation was to be enacted on January 1, 1863. It said that all enslaved people that seceded from the U.S. during the American Civil War were to be freed. This meant that slaves in border states and states under Northern control were not to be freed.

While this proclamation paved the way for permanent abolition of slavery, it was not the sole reason slaves were freed. Two and a half years later in 1865, the Union soldiers would have to take control of Galveston, Texas. This action would help free all remaining enslaved people. A year after 1865, newly freed Black people organized an annual celebration of “Jubilee Day” on June 19th in the state of Texas. These community oriented local celebrations included music, prayers, barbecues, traditional dress and other celebratory acts. As Black people migrated out of Texas to other states, they carried the Juneteenth tradition with them. Soon African American communities and other communities throughout the U.S. were celebrating Juneteenth. Fun fact: Texas was the first state to declare Juneteenth a holiday!

Black history is deeply engrained with American history and should be taught year-round, but Juneteenth is a great opportunity to emphasize this important historical event. This is an important time for teaching tolerance and acceptance that all students need to learn. Here are some great, free resources to share with students.

1. What is Juneteenth? – This Juneteenth Cartoon that goes over fun facts about this holiday including why it’s celebrated around the US.

2. Juneteenth – All About the Holidays – PBS Learning Media created this short video to introduce kids to Juneteenth.

3. Celebrating Juneteenth – Founding director of the National Museum of African American History & Culture, Smithsonian leads a tour through a Juneteenth exhibition.

4. Teaching Juneteenth – This blog of Juneteenth lessons provides frameworks to help educators both recognize challenges of fighting injustice and celebrate culture, activism, and humanity.

5. Teaching Culture as Resistance – This grades 6-8 lesson plan addresses important questions surrounding what identity is and how society shapes it.

6. Juneteenth Lesson Plans – These grade 3-5 lesson plans cover how to describe different identities and respectfully learn about other peoples’ experiences.

It’s important to give your students the space to explore Juneteenth and the dark history of the United States. We need to learn from past mistakes and atrocities to ensure it never happens again. While you don’t have to give the gruesome details of the horrors of slavery, you should tell your students that Juneteenth is not just an annual holiday. It’s also a day that many people have given their lives to see celebrated. It’s also great to know that you can help Black and African American students feel that they and their history is respected.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *