Learn About Juneteenth for Kids: A Celebration of Freedom

Juneteenth, the blending of the words June and nineteen, celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It is also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day. It pays homage to the day enslaved people of Galveston, Texas were informed that the Civil War had ended and they were now free. Although Juneteenth is not a federal holiday, most states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation recognizing it as a holiday or a day of observance. Learn about Juneteenth with this great kid-friendly overview along with activities and worksheets for homeschooling or classroom use!

Learn About Juneteenth for Kids: A Celebration of Freedom

Learn more about the end of slavery and the Civil Rights movement in our book Civil Rights Then and Now: A Timeline of the Fight For Equality in America.

Learn About Juneteenth History

The Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery in the Confederate States of America, which originally included South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. However, it would only go into effect when the Civil War ended.

The states involved in the  rebellion  were driven by agriculture which relied heavily on the labor of enslaved African and African-American people. State leaders viewed President Abraham Lincoln, a stark opposer to slavery who won the election of 1860, as a threat to the institution. They soon seceded from the Union and formed their own government with Jefferson Davis as President.

Juneteenth Flag

But while the Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, two-and-a-half years later, that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas to deliver the news that all 250,000 enslaved people within the state, were free. Why did it take so long? No one knows for certain, but there is speculation that troops wanted to allow for one last cotton harvest before freeing the enslaved. Another theory is that because there were few Union soldiers in Texas who could enforce the Emancipation Proclamation most enslavers had not adhered to its decree. When Major General Granger Gordon arrived in Galveston, he read the following General Orders, Number 3:

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“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”  —General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865

Vocabulary Words Worksheets

  1. emancipation
  2. homage
  3. legislation
  4. observance
  5. agriculture
  6. seceded
  7. abolished
  8. speculation
  9. enforce
  10. perseverance

Learn about Juneteenth Celebrations & Traditions

Juneteenth is an important day in African-American communities yet it was difficult to do so because there were still many ways in which Black people continued to face systemic racism. They lived without jobs, money, or property and their families had been torn apart by slavery. As Jim Crow laws spread, the celebrations became less popular. However, celebrations spread through out Texas and the surrounding states where many displaced African Americans relocated.

No longer enslaved and barred from wearing fancier clothing, many dressed in the finest clothes they could find, attended church services, music festivals, and enjoyed food festivals which included the inclusion of red-colored foods such as strawberry and watermelon symbolizes strength and perseverance. Some popular foods include Strawberry and Watermelon Soda, Collard Greens, Lamb, Beef, Fried Chicken, Cornbread, and Red Beans.

Food

Here are some recipes by Black chefs that you may wish to include:

Music

Lift Every Voice and Sing is considered to be the Black National Anthem. It was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) in 1900. His brother John Rosamond Johnson(1873–1954) set the poem to music in 1905.

Lift Every Voice and Sing Lyrics by We Are the Future Big Band

Lift every voice and sing
‘Til earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on ’til victory is won
Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past
‘Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast
God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land

How it Feels to Be Free Lyrics

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Written by Dick Dallas / Billy Taylor, Performed by Nina Simone

I wish I knew how
It would feel to be free
I wish I could break
All the chains holding me
I wish I could say
All the things that I should say
Say ’em loud, say ’em clear
For the whole round world to hear
I wish I could share
All the love that’s in my heart
Remove all the bars
That keep us apart
I wish you could know
What it means to be me
Then you’d see and agree
That every man should be free
I wish I could give
All I’m longing to give
I wish I could live
Like I’m longing’ to live
I wish I could do
All the things that I can do
And though I’m way over due
I’d be starting anew
Well I wish I could be
Like a bird in the sky
How sweet it would be
If I found I could fly
Oh I’d soar to the sun
And look down at the sea
Then I’d sing ’cause I know, yea
Then I’d sing ’cause I know, yea
Then I’d sing ’cause I know
I’d know how it feels
Oh I know how it feels to be free
Yea yea! Oh, I know how it feels
Yes I know, oh, I know
How it feels
How it feels
To be free, Lord, Lord, Lord

Speeches about Juneteenth

Former President Barack Obama delivered a Statement on the Observance of Juneteenth—President Barack Obama, June 19, 2016

“Just outside the Oval Office hangs a painting depicting the night of December 31, 1862. In it, African-American men, women, and children crowd around a single pocket watch, waiting for the clock to strike midnight and the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect. As the slaves huddle anxiously in the dimly lit room, we can sense how even two more minutes seems like an eternity to wait for one’s freedom. But the slaves of Galveston, Texas, had to wait more than two years after Lincoln’s decree and two months after Appomattox to receive word that they were free at last.

Today we commemorate the anniversary of that delayed but welcome news. Decades of collective action would follow as equality and justice for African-Americans advanced slowly, frustratingly, gradually, on our nation’s journey toward a more perfect union. On this Juneteenth, we remember that struggle as we reflect on how far we’ve come as a country. The slaves of Galveston knew their freedom was only a first step, just as the bloodied foot soldiers who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge 100 years later knew they had to keep marching.

Juneteenth is a time to recommit ourselves to the work that remains undone. We remember that even in the darkest hours, there is cause to hope for tomorrow’s light. Today, no matter our race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, we recommit ourselves to working to free modern-day slaves around the world and to honoring in our own time the efforts of those who fought so hard to steer our country truer to our highest ideals.”

Art

Juneteenth Mixed Media Collage

Mixed media art combines various paints, textures, and tools to create unique pieces. In this activity, we will create a collage that represents “FREEDOM” from the perspective of Black women, men, and children.

Ask yourself the following:

(1) What does it mean to be “free”?

(2) What are some things one can do when living freely?

(3) What does it look like to celebrate?

Gather your materials. Look in magazines, newspapers, and catalogs for images to use. You can use pieces of cardboard, torn paper, stamps, yarn, and more. You will also want to use glue or ModPodge, paints, ink, markers, and more.

Learn more about mixed media collaging

 

 

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About the author

Kristina Brooke Daniele is a writer, educator, homeschooler, entrepreneur, avid reader, life-long learner, and advocate for freedom, equality, and justice. She believes that our job as human beings is to leave this world better than when we found it. That is her goal!

View all articles by Kristina Daniele

1 comment

  1. jonah carpenter

    Thank you for these resources. I am going to use many of the Juneteenth resources with my elementary students at our last classroom meeting of this school year. I would like to follow your work and am interested in purchasing from you. I just stumbled on this site and I don’t want to lose you in the future. What is the best way to follow your work?

    Thank you again.

    jonah in Seattle.

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