Explaining Juneteenth to children
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It marks the date (June 19, 1865) on which the United States Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, with the proclamation that all slaves in Texas were now free.
Slaves in Texas were formally freed by the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. However, slavery persisted in Texas until June 1865 due to a low presence of US troops to enforce the order. After the surrender of the Confederacy began in April 1865, Union forces led by General Gordon Granger moved into the area.
Juneteenth was officially recognized by the state of Texas in 1980, and is now a state or ceremonial holiday in 49 states. It is a day to celebrate freedom, speak out against the evils and legacy of slavery, and remember an important point in the history of the USA. Knowledge of the event is growing rapidly, including calls to establish Juneteenth as a national holiday.
Juneteenth is a day of pride, intended to encourage self-development and respect for all cultures.
Wondering how to talk to your kids about Juneteenth?
We have collected some resources to help you navigate this topic with your family:
- National Civil Rights Museum’s Reading of “Juneteenth for Mazie” by Floyd Cooper [Video]
- Smithsonian Celebrating Juneteeth, Slavery & Freedom Exhibit [with Video]
- Popsugar: 5 Children’s Books About Juneteenth That You Can Buy Now
- Spectacular Magazine: 5 Ways To Talk To Children About Juneteenth Or Freedom Day
- It is essential before any talk to check your own biases related to the topic. Don’t transfer negative personal experiences onto a child, stick with the facts.
- When talking with children about tough topics using metaphors or current-day examples can help form them relatable associations.
- Meet the child where they are, meaning your lesson should always be age-appropriate. Use words the child can understand and don’t overwhelm them.
- Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know!” Be open to search for information or watch new videos with the child.
- Always aim to leave the child feeling educated and empowered. Whenever possible, avoid leaving a child scared or confused.