What is Juneteenth? 7 Activities to Teach Your Kids the Meaning of the Holiday
Juneteenth is a very significant American holiday because of its place in African American history. It is important to teach our children all about Juneteenth, what it symbolizes, and how to celebrate it. Below are some Juneteenth activities for kids and families to partake in, regardless of race, because we must show support to black Americans. There are also some fun facts about Juneteenth and how it started.
The History of Juneteenth
Abraham Lincoln gave the Emancipation Proclamation that marked the end of slavery in 1863. However, this wasn’t true for all Black Americans. If you lived in a part of a Confederacy that wasn’t part of the rebellion, you remained enslaved.
For the past 156 years, June 19th has been a day to remember for those in the black community. The first Juneteenth was celebrated in Galveston, Texas in 1865 shortly after the civil war. This was one of the last confederate states with slaves. Union General Gordon Granger was the one who gave the order that all slaves were officially free. It took 2 years for all of the remaining slaves to be freed.
Juneteenth is also known by several other names such as Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Black Independence Day, and more. It wasn’t recognized as a federal holiday until June 17, 2021. This is when the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden. Since then, more people are celebrating and learning just how important Juneteenth is to American history.
1. Make a Juneteenth Feast
You can make all sorts of red foods to celebrate Juneteenth. The color red symbolizes the strength of enslaved people. Some examples of great food choices are watermelon, red velvet cake, and red drinks. Of course, you can have other classic dishes that you would find at cookouts like potato salad, barbecue, and deviled eggs. Get your children involved by having them lend a hand in the preparation of the food. It’s a great way to get friends and family together to celebrate the holiday and Black culture.
2. Read Books
There are several wonderful children’s books that help to explain the significance of Juneteenth to little ones. Here are a couple of our favorites.
- All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson
This is a picture book that talks about the first Juneteenth and why it’s so important to people in the Black community. It is told through the eyes of a little girl who experienced the end of slavery.
- Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper
This story centers around the main character, Mazie, a young African American girl. She is getting ready to celebrate Juneteenth with her family. You and Mazie learn together the struggle that her ancestors endured to one day be emancipated.
- Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford
This is another children’s picture book that is a great option to teach your little ones about Juneteenth. The story is about a community celebration that a girl named Cassie attends with her parents. She learns of the hardship of her ancestors and how not all slaves were free immediately after the Emancipation Proclamation.
3. Attend an Event
Check out some local events in your community. This can be anything from parades to marches or protests and even activities at your community park and so much more. If you do a little research about what is happening in your town, you can plan or register to participate.
4. Have a Movie Night
There are some great TV shows and movies about Juneteenth that do a fantastic job of educating children and families about Black history. Take a look below to see some of our favorite examples.
- Juneteenth Jamboree on PBS
PBS Kids is a wonderful network that provides a fun and engaging programs that make children love to learn. This is a series that highlights past Juneteenth celebrations as well as the history of African American families in Austin, Texas.
- Black-Ish: The Johnsons Celebrate Juneteenth
Black-Ish is a sitcom centered around the daily lives of a Black American family. This particular episode is centered around the importance of Juneteenth. Since this has been a very uncelebrated holiday, the Johnson kids had never heard of it before but the family decides to celebrate. It’s an empowering and educational episode in the series.
- Miss Juneteenth
This movie follows a single African American mother and former pageant queen. It follows her and her daughter and her trying to get her daughter ready for the “Miss Juneteenth” pageant. It tackles the struggles that Black women face. However, it is more appropriate for children who are 12 years old and up.
5. Support Black-Owned Businesses
Whether it’s a restaurant or a local shop, you can take your kids to a Black-owned business and spend money there. Buying from Black-owened businesses and promoting them to your friends and family is a great way to give back to locals in your community.
6. Make Crafts
You and your kids can make a fun art project to celebrate Juneteenth. Check out a few links below that contain some wonderful ideas for inspiration.
- Easy Craft Stick Flag
This is an easy flag that can be made out of painted popsicle sticks and glue. There are two different flags that African Americans use when talking about Juneteenth. This one is the Pan-African flag.
- Juneteenth Recycled Cardboard Flag Craft
This is the flag that Ben Haith created in honor of Juneteenth. It combines the star for Texas, as well as the red and blue colors of the American flag which represents freedom.
- Juneteeth Facts and Worksheets
If you want to dive in further, this bundle includes worksheets full of several activities and information. Some important dates and facts will help your child learn a bit more about Juneteenth.
You can donate to a charity that works to fight for and support equality and racial justice. Some great examples are: