If you’re unsure about what Juneteenth is, you’re not alone. Our generation learned about things that impacted the Black community like slavery and Jim Crow laws in school, but I was in my 20s when I learned about Juneteenth. Juneteenth was among the things I didn’t learn about in any of my history classes over the years. Does this sound familiar?
So what does Juneteenth celebrate? Juneteenth—short for “June Nineteenth”—is recognized each year on June 19 as a commemorative day celebrating the ending of slavery. For a little over two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery continued in Galveston, Texas until General Gordon Granger arrived in 1865 with federal troops to take control of the state and ensure the freedom of the enslaved people living in Galveston.
In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth a holiday. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021. But Black people have been celebrating Juneteenth for a long time—in fact, according to History.com, “Juneteenth is considered the longest-running African American holiday.”
With June 19 just around the corner, many families, including mine, are gearing up to celebrate the emancipation of Black people. The holiday can also serve as an opportunity to learn more about the roots of Juneteenth with your family. Here are five ways to learn about and celebrate Juneteenth.
Support Black-Owned Businesses
In 2019, the U.S. Census revealed there were 134,567 Black-owned businesses in all industries. Some of these brands can even be found in major retailers like mom-favorite Target. You can browse all Black-owned or founded brands at Target here, like Bellen’s More Than Peach colored pencil and non-toxic crayon bundle. Or if you and your partner are looking for a new coffee blend to try, BLK & Bold’s Rise & GRND Medium Blend coffee features the taste of toffee and lemon.
Juneteenth is a great reminder to seek out Black-owned brands and businesses, whether you’re shopping at your favorite retailer or supporting your local small shops and restaurants.
Attend Local Juneteenth Events
Summertime is the perfect time for attending local festivals with family. During Juneteenth festivals, you can find everything from celebratory parades to educational speakers. Where I live in Atlanta, the Tenth Annual Juneteenth Atlanta Parade & Music Festival will be taking place between Friday, June 17 and Sunday, June 19. Most festivals are family-friendly, so you don’t have to be concerned about whether it’s appropriate to bring your children with you or not.
Since each festival’s date may vary, you can check in your area to see if one is being held and consider taking a weekend family trip.
Visit an Exhibit or Museum Dedicated to Black Culture
Check out an exhibit geared toward Black culture at one of the museums in your area. Depending on where you live, you may find a museum that’s specifically dedicated to Black culture. The Studio Museum in Harlem, National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C. or National Civil Rights Museum in Tennessee are a few examples.
If you’re unable to find traveling exhibits or museums dedicated to Black culture in your area, there are ways to view certain exhibits virtually. Additionally, check with your local library to see if they are holding a special Juneteenth event.
Read Books About Juneteenth Together
Most parents know the benefits of reading with your children, no matter their age, from emotional benefits—like deepening your connection to each other—to developmental benefits, like learning language and communication skills.
Reading together also allows you and your children to learn about other cultures, which can build understanding and respect for those different from you. They can also be used as age-appropriate introductions to tougher parts of U.S. history. The books below are both new releases this year and offer the perfect opportunity for kids, parents, and caregivers to learn more about Juneteenth together.
Featuring illustrations that help shape the story of what led to Juneteenth, this book does an excellent job of explaining its history in a way that kids and adults can understand. It is beautifully written and can help start conversations about the importance of diversity and inclusivity in your household. Released May 2022 This poem dives into the reality of what freedom meant for those who were enslaved. It depicts how many Black people still had to work under circumstances similar to slavery in order to have somewhere to call home. While it is a solemn look at Juneteenth, it shows that Black people chose to persevere and hold on to their faith in the midst of extreme hardship. Released May 2022
Featuring illustrations that help shape the story of what led to Juneteenth, this book does an excellent job of explaining its history in a way that kids and adults can understand. It is beautifully written and can help start conversations about the importance of diversity and inclusivity in your household.
Released May 2022
This poem dives into the reality of what freedom meant for those who were enslaved. It depicts how many Black people still had to work under circumstances similar to slavery in order to have somewhere to call home. While it is a solemn look at Juneteenth, it shows that Black people chose to persevere and hold on to their faith in the midst of extreme hardship.
Released May 2022
Try a Kid-Friendly Juneteenth Craft
Blogger Mandisa of Happy Toddler Playtime shared a number of Juneteenth crafts families can work on together while they learn about the holiday. For example, if you’re creating a craft inspired by the Juneteenth flag, you can share important facts about the flag.
- Created by activist Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF), in 1997
- The star in the middle represents Texas and the freedom of Black people across all U.S. states.
- The burst and the arcs represent the nova, which means “new star” and represents a new beginning for Black people.
- The colors of the flag are the same colors as the American flag to serve as a reminder that former enslaved people and their descendants are American.
Learning is lifelong, so even if Juneteenth is newer to you and your family, learning the history behind the holiday is another way to show that education doesn’t have to end or begin in the classroom, especially when certain lessons have long been left out.