As the name suggests, Juneteenth is celebrated annually on June 19th.
This historic holiday has been around for more than a century but it’s often omitted or dismissed in American textbooks.
Start learning about Juneteenth and its significance to honor it in your classroom.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth, which is short for June Nineteenth, is the oldest celebrated commemoration of the effective end of slavery in the United States.
It’s also known as “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.”
Many believe that slavery ended with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, but this isn’t the case. The document only applied to enslaved people in the Confederacy.
Two and a half years later in 1865, Union soldiers took control of Galveston, Texas and declared that the remaining enslaved people were freed.
This didn’t instantly free everyone, but Juneteenth became a day the community can rally around.
How did Juneteenth start?
A year after 1865, newly freed Black people organized an annual celebration of “Jubilee Day” on June 19th.
Festivities 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.
How is Juneteenth honored today?
“Juneteenth today, celebrates African-American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures” (Juneteenth.com)
Many hold family gatherings, some make a pilgrimage to Galveston, and some cities hold larger events like parades. Other typical activities include rodeos, fishing, barbecuing and baseball. Check out a few scheduled Juneteenth activities that were held in Southern California in 2020.
You can also educate yourself about Black history and social justice through books, shows, podcasts, and more.
Is Juneteenth a federal holiday?
No, it isn’t federally recognized.
Over the years, there were multiple resolutions to recognize “Juneteenth Independence Day” as a national day of observance or a federal holiday, but none had fully passed through Congress. The latest attempt was in June 2020.
Even though Juneteenth isn’t a federal holiday, a growing number of companies like Nike and Citigroup began to give employees June 29th as a paid day off.
We at Scoot also gave the day off for Scooters to celebrate.
Which states celebrate Juneteenth?
47 states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday.
In 1980, largely due to the efforts of civil rights activist and former Houston legislator Al Edwards, Texas became the first state to make it official.
North Dakota, South Dakota, and Hawaii are the only states that don’t recognize Juneteenth as a holiday.
How can I celebrate Juneteenth in the classroom?
There are many free resources to celebrate Juneteenth with your students. Here are a few.
Videos to watch
What is Juneteenth? – A Juneteenth Cartoon that goes over fun facts about this holiday including why it’s celebrated around the US.
Juneteenth – All About the Holidays – PBS Learning Media created this short video to introduce kids to Juneteenth.
Celebrating Juneteenth – Founding director of the National Museum of African American History & Culture, Smithsonian leads a tour through a Juneteenth exhibition.
Teaching resources to use
Teaching Juneteenth – This blog provides frameworks to help educators both recognize challenges of fighting injustice and celebrate culture, activism, and humanity.
Teaching Culture as Resistance – This grades 6-8 lesson plan addresses important questions surrounding what identity is and how society shapes it.
Juneteenth – This grades 3-5 lesson plan covers how to describe different identities and respectfully learn about other peoples’ experiences.