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Juneteenth for kids: A guide for parents

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Juneteenth marks an important day in American history, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. It's a day of reflection, celebration, and education, making it a perfect opportunity for parents to engage their children in learning about the significance of this day.

Here's a comprehensive guide to help you introduce Juneteenth to your kids through history, information, activities, events, shows, books, crafts, and discussions on cultural identity.

Understanding Juneteenth: A brief history

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, signifies the day in 1865 when the last enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were informed of their freedom – more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. It's a day to celebrate freedom and equality, while also acknowledging the struggles and sacrifices made by African Americans and Black communities throughout our nation's history.

Activities and events to celebrate Juneteenth

  1. Attend local Juneteenth celebrations: Many communities host parades, festivals, and educational events. Participating in these activities can be a fun and informative way to celebrate the day with your family.

  2. Create a freedom bell craft: Crafting a freedom bell together can serve as a symbolic reminder of the day. You can use simple materials like paper cups, paint, and beads.

  3. Cook traditional Juneteenth foods: Cooking is a great way to explore culture. Try making red foods, which are traditional for Juneteenth, symbolizing resilience and ingenuity.

Educational resources: Shows and books

  1. Shows: Look for children’s programs that discuss Juneteenth and the broader topics of freedom and equality. Educational channels often have special programming around this holiday.

  2. Books: There are many children's books that tell the story of Juneteenth and the experiences of enslaved people fighting for freedom. Titles like "Juneteenth for Mazie" by Floyd Cooper or "Freedom Over Me" by Ashley Bryan are excellent choices. For older kids, "All Different Now" by Angela Johnson and E.B. Lewis provides a powerful historical account.

  3. Community resources: Many libraries have special programs or book displays to help educate people about Juneteenth. Local schools or organizations may offer speakers, plays, movie screenings, or other events. Museums may also curate exhibits around Juneteenth.

Promoting cultural identity and understanding

  1. Discuss the significance of Juneteenth: Take time to explain the meaning of Juneteenth to your kids, emphasizing its importance in African American history and its relevance today.

  2. Learn about family history: Encourage your children to ask grandparents and other family members about their own family's experiences with slavery and freedom. This can deepen their understanding of the holiday.

  3. Celebrate diversity: Use this day as an opportunity to have open discussions about diversity, inclusivity, and cultural identity. Teach your children the importance of embracing differences and standing up against discrimination.

  4. Use screen time to your advantage: Engage with online content creators who make videos on Juneteenth and Black culture.

Crafts and cultural identity

  1. Juneteenth flag project: The Juneteenth flag is rich with symbolism. Creating a replica can be a hands-on way to learn about its meaning, which is:  "A new flag to represent a new country, which was created by and for the descendants of enslaved people in America" (read more about it here).

  2. Educational coloring sheets: Look for free printable coloring pages online that depict important figures and events related to Juneteenth. These can serve as a fun and educational activity for kids to learn about the holiday.

  3. Family tree project: Researching and creating a family tree can help kids understand their own heritage and the concept of lineage and legacy. 

  4. Identity reflection: Encourage your children to reflect upon their own cultural identity and how it relates to the celebration of Juneteenth. Provide space for open discussions about race, ethnicity, and history.

Fostering discussions on cultural identity

Juneteenth provides a platform to discuss the meaning of freedom, justice, and cultural identity. Encourage open conversations about the importance of equality and how history shapes our present and future. Discussing personal experiences and family histories can also enrich this conversation. It's an opportunity to learn and grow together as a family.

It's also a great time to gauge how much your children understand about our differences and to spot any negative thinking about themselves or others that they may need to be guided through.

Juneteenth for kids FAQs

Q: Why is Juneteenth also called Freedom Day? 

A: Juneteenth is also called Freedom Day because it marks the day when the last enslaved people in the United States learned of their freedom, making it a day to celebrate emancipation and independence.

Q: Is Juneteenth a federal holiday? 

A: Yes, Juneteenth became a federal holiday in the United States on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.

Q: How do people typically celebrate Juneteenth? 

A: Celebrations of Juneteenth often include family gatherings, festivals, picnics, street fairs, community service, and historical reenactments, along with reflections on African American and Black history and culture.

Q: What are the colors of the Juneteenth flag and what do they represent? 

A: The Juneteenth flag features red, white, and blue, echoing the American flag to symbolize that former enslaved people and their descendants are American. The star in the middle represents Texas, the state where Juneteenth originated, and the arc across the width of the flag symbolizes new horizons for Black Americans.

Q: Can Juneteenth be celebrated outside of the United States? 

A: While Juneteenth is specific to the United States history, it is celebrated outside the U.S. and can be celebrated anywhere as a symbol of the end of slavery and the ongoing fight for equality and justice worldwide.

Q: Were there any significant events that led to the creation of Juneteenth? 

A: Juneteenth marks the day Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free, which was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Q: How can educators incorporate Juneteenth into the curriculum? 

A: Educators can incorporate Juneteenth into the curriculum by teaching about the history of slavery, the Civil War, and the civil rights movement, and by discussing the importance of Juneteenth in the broader context of American history and cultural identity.

Q: What is the significance of red foods on Juneteenth? 

A: Culinary historian Michael Twitty shared with Oprah Daily that red foods are significant on Juneteenth for multiple reasons, including the scarcity of red foods during times of enslavement. But red is also associated with many African cultures arriving in America through the slave trade in later years, such as Yoruba and Kongo. Dishes like red beans and rice, red velvet cake, strawberry soda, and barbecue ribs are common and might symbolize “sacrifice, tradition, and power” according to Twitty.

Q: How has the perception of Juneteenth changed over time? 

A: The perception of Juneteenth has evolved from being a largely Texan tradition to being recognized across the United States as a symbol of freedom and Black and African American culture, culminating in its designation as a federal holiday.

Q: What are some misconceptions about Juneteenth? 

A: Misconceptions about Juneteenth include the idea that it represents the day slavery was abolished in the United States, when in fact, it commemorates the day the last enslaved African Americans were informed of their freedom in 1865, which came after the formal abolition of slavery by the 13th Amendment in 1862.

Celebrating Juneteenth with your children offers a meaningful way to honor the past while inspiring hope for the future. Through educational activities, crafts, and discussions, parents can help their kids understand the significance of this day and the value of and ongoing importance of diversity and cultural identity.

Visit the Greenlight Learning Center for helpful resources on all things family, finance, and fun.

This blog post is provided "as is" [and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional advice]. Some content in this post may have been created using artificial intelligence; however, every blog post is [reviewed] by at least two human editors.

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