Celebrate Juneteenth with your children and learn about the history of this holiday using our Juneteenth guide for kids.
Juneteenth guide for kids
Thank you to Danette Sajous for sharing with me how her family celebrates Juneteenth and her encouragement to create this unit.
In this lesson your children can:
:: learn what Juneteenth is
:: learn about the history of Juneteenth and why it is celebrated
:: learn how Juneteenth began and became a federal holiday in the United States of America
:: learn how Juneteenth is celebrated today
Ready-made Juneteenth Unit lesson plans
This lesson is taken from our ready-made Juneteenth Unit.
The Juneteenth Unit is one of the units in our Play Academy curriculum Festivals pathway.
This curriculum has an excellent range of units that you can fit together to create an in-depth and engaging programme for your children, all based on the festivals and holidays of the year.
All our units teach through hands-on learning.
Rather than staring at a screen or filling in uninspiring worksheets, the Play Academy gives you ready-made, easy-to-lead, creative lessons that enable your children to learn through making, playing, doing, cooking, investigating, storytelling, imagining, chatting, thinking and laughing.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is an important world festival. It is celebrated by Black African Americans and is important for everyone, everywhere to know about as it teaches us about a part of world history.
Over four hundred years ago, from the 1500s onwards, white people from countries including Great Britain, Portugal, Spain, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United States of America travelled to Africa and captured many Black African people who lived there.
The white foreigners took the Black African people away from their homes and families.
Most of the Africans were taken to America and the white people enslaved them, forcing them to work for no money, with very poor homes and with no freedom.
This unfairness and cruelty continued for many generations, and the Africans and their children, grand-children and great-grandchildren had to be strong, brave, and resilient to survive.
After many, many years of people campaigning, the United States finally ended enslavement in 1865.
Now, African Americans have their own homes, go to school, have jobs and run businesses, and are free to choose for themselves. They have the same rights as everyone in America.
Juneteenth celebrates the strength, courage and resilience of African American people, and their freedom from being enslaved.
It is a celebration of Africa-American culture and community.
It also reminds all of us, in all countries, about this cruel and unfair time in world history, so that we know never to let it happen again.
When did Juneteenth begin?
On January 1st 1863, a law called The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by American President Abraham Lincoln. This law proclaimed, “that all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free.”
Not everyone in the United States heard about this law straightaway however, and it was not until June 19th 1865 that Union General Gordon Granger read orders in Galveston, Texas, pronouncing that all formerly enslaved people in Texas were free.
Juneteenth – combining the words June and nineteenth – celebrates this day of freedom.
Over 150 years later, on June 17th 2021, Juneteenth was recognised as an official federal holiday when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.
How is Juneteenth celebrated?
Juneteenth is celebrated in public parks, at rodeos, through street fairs, parades, and family reunions. The Emancipation Proclamation might be read aloud, and elders share family stories and history with younger generation.
Communities enjoy cookouts with traditional foods including grilled meats, greens, black-eyed peas, and red foods including red velvet cake and strawberry soda.
Celebrations are decorated with the colors and symbols of Juneteenth and African American culture (homemade or bought from Black-owned companies such as We Celebrate Black.)
Traditional songs are sung, such Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and Lift Every Voice and Sing. (see our lesson about the anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing lesson here.)
You might like to read more about Juneteenth in the book “All Different Now” by Angela Johnson.
And be sure to wish your African American family, friends, and neighbours a Happy Juneteenth!
More Juneteenth activities for children
Ready-made Juneteenth Unit lesson plans
This lesson is taken from our ready-made Juneteenth Unit. The Juneteenth Unit is one of the units in our Play Academy curriculum Festivals pathway. This curriculum has an excellent range of units that you can fit together to create an in-depth and engaging programme for your children, all based on the festivals and holidays of the year.