Juneteenth is a holiday that celebrates the emancipation of previously enslaved Americans. It is important that we teach about the historical and modern significance of the Juneteenth holiday. In this post, I share some ideas and resources for incorporating lessons and stories about Juneteeth into your classroom.
*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Why Is Teaching about Juneteenth Important?
To be honest, I didn’t know about this holiday until I was well into adulthood. Growing up, we never learned about Juneteenth in school. And it looks like I’m not alone. The reality is that history education in America, including the stories, materials, and topics we cover, is biased and whitewashed. White perspectives have been prioritized in education for so long that they’ve become permanently ingrained in American sentiment and culture. But the topics and stories covered in most schools are only a portion of the truth about America’s past. Juneteenth is a perfect opportunity for educators to be intentional about teaching history in a representative way.
Ideas & Resources for Teaching About Juneteenth
1. Incorporate Diverse Stories
Be sure to tell the story of the people. Show the resistance, strength, and experiences of Black people. Do not focus solely on the white men in power (i.e., Abraham Lincoln, General Gordon Granger). Of course, the policies and actions of these men played an important role in history. But we must focus on the stories and experiences of the people living in and fighting against slavery.
2. Use Picture Books to Teach about Juneteenth
Use picture books to tell the history and the significance of the holiday. Here are my recommendations for picture books:
Through the eyes of one little girl, All Different Now tells the story of the first Juneteenth, the day freedom finally came to the last of the enslaved people in the South. (From Amazon.com)
Mazie is ready to celebrate liberty. She is ready to celebrate freedom. She is ready to celebrate a great day in American history. The day her ancestors were no longer enslaved. Mazie remembers the struggles and the triumph as she gets ready to celebrate Juneteenth. (From Amazon.com)
3. Show How People Celebrate Juneteenth Today
It’s important to teach about the history of Juneteenth, but it’s also important to show how the Black community continues to come together on the holiday to celebrate.
If you’re looking for a good resource to show how Juneteenth is celebrated, you can check out my Virtual Field Trip to Galveston, Texas for Juneteenth.
4. Provoke Critical Thinking
Allow students time to think and reflect about this event and the holiday. You can spark conversations by posing critical thinking questions. Here are some examples:
- Should Juneteenth be a national holiday?
- How are Juneteenth and Independence Day similar? How are the holidays different?
- Should we celebrate Juneteenth over Independence Day? Should we celebrate both?
I hope these ideas and resources for teaching about Juneteenth help you and your students learn more about the history and purpose of this important holiday.
If you want to learn more about using books for cross-curricular teaching, check out my blog post about Easy Ways to Use Books for Cross-Curricular Teaching.