Teaching Kids About Juneteenth

Juneteenth is celebrated annually on June 19. It is the oldest established celebration of the end of slavery in the United States and originated June 19, 1865, when union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news of the end of the Civil War and of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

According to the official Juneteenth website, the celebration was a time for mutual reassurance, praying and gathering with surviving family members to celebrate the coming freedom. The celebration has grown since the end of the Civil War and while many pieces of the celebration focus on outdoor activities like fishing, rodeos and barbecuing, the main focus of the day is self-reflection and improvement.

The most important thing to instill the importance of the day on young kids who don’t already know about the holiday is the significance of the day itself. Much of the significance behind the holiday comes from the fact the order that ended slavery in the union officially came down Jan. 1, 1863. Those 2.5-year difference represents the attitudes toward slaves in the south, and the effort to which people went to stop the spread of news.

“The observance of Juneteenth is about the journey and achievement of African Americans — from a horrific period of sanctioned enslavement to the pinnacle of human endeavors. It is a story of pride, resilience and determination that will always be of historical and spiritual importance — as it serves us well to understand that together, we can overcome all obstacles in our path,” says a note on celebration from the official Juneteenth website.

Juneteenth Step Show. Photo: Blackkango | Dreamstime.com

Juneteenth Step Show. Photo: Blackkango | Dreamstime.com

To celebrate Juneteenth in the home, the website suggests a few different ways to celebrate as a family and community. Coming together as a family for a special meal and discussion is a good way to celebrate, especially if young kids are involved. This is an excellent way to drive home the importance and meaning of the holiday while encouraging healthy self-reflection techniques. Inviting friends and community members, especially kids’ friends, is a good way to spread the word and reflect on quotes and facts from history. These exchanges can add context to children understanding the day and encourage learning.

Dealing with a topic this delicate can be a challenge, especially when including kids, but education and understanding of such an important day is imperative for cultural understanding and history of the United States.