Image Credit: National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.
Juneteenth is celebrated in many states on June 19th each year. The first Juneteenth was on June 19th, 1865. Juneteenth is primarily celebrated in African American communities and commemorates the oldest known celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation which signified the beginning of the process of slavery becoming illegal in the United States which culminated with the 13th amendment to the United States Constitution. The fight for full freedom and equality continues to this day. Here is a video for kids from PBS that gives an overview of the history of Juneteenth. This video lacks nuance but is a good place to start.
A lot of us, myself included, do not know a lot about the history of the enslavement of Africans. I would recommend this article from Teaching Tolerance to get a general overview. I would recommend reading Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi for a more thorough education. I am in the middle of listening to it on the library’s Hoopla app and it is compelling!
Juneteenth is now a day to celebrate African American culture and heritage as well as acknowledge and reflect on the history of slavery, racism, and the resilience of African Americans in the past and today. Here is a video from PBS of a Juneteenth celebration in Colorado.
Here is a great article from Indy’s Child with ideas for families or teachers to get started learning about and celebrating Juneteenth. There are easy activity ideas, suggested children’s books and links to virtual Juneteenth celebrations. I love their ideas for making a Juneteenth flag, enjoying music, and having red foods as simple ways to celebrate!
Here is the official Juneteenth website as well.
Some things to consider when talking to your child about slavery and racism. A lot of this information I learned from The Conscious Kid.
- DO- Use the terms “enslaved Africans” and “en-slavers”.
- DON’T- Use the terms “slaves”, “slave owners”, “slave masters”, or vague terms like “people who were slaves”, or “people who had slaves”.
- DO- Tell kids that many enslaved Africans freed themselves by escaping and running away from their enslavers. They became “self-emancipated” or “self-liberated”. Enslaved Africans also found ways to resist enslavement like breaking tools or pretending to be sick. Make sure to emphasize the humanity and bravery of enslaved Africans.
- DON’T- Tell your children untrue facts like “Abe Lincoln freed all the slaves”, or “everyone celebrated the end of slavery.” Avoid making a happy ending or making enslavement and enslavers sound better than they were. It is hard to tell kids painful and ugly truths but perpetuating myths is very harmful.
- DO- Brush up on your own knowledge of history so you can be accurate with your children and say you don’t know when you don’t know. This is a slow process of learning and unlearning. Start where you are and feel good about moving forward.
- DON’T- Avoid talking about the subjects of slavery and racism with your children because it is hard, or because they are too young. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to share all the gruesome details. You can be factual and empowering!
I hope everyone has a great Juneteenth!