Juneteenth is a critical moment in American history, yet it only recently became an official national U.S. holiday. Commemorating Juneteenth is the perfect opportunity for kids to explore Black liberation history and discuss the work that still needs to be done.
Here are a few easy ways your family can learn about and celebrate Juneteenth.
1. Take a walk with Opal Lee
Juneteenth is also known as Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, or even Freedom Day. It honors June 19, 1865, the unforgettable day General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers riding through Texas to read Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to the public.
Juneteenth is a defining day in history. But making it an official U.S. holiday required a journey – literally. It took the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” walking 1,400 miles at the tender age of 90 to make it happen.
Opal Lee walked from Texas to D.C. in a tireless effort to get lawmakers to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday. She thought she could be the one to get Juneteenth the recognition it deserved.
I decided that maybe if a little old lady, 89 years old, in tennis shoes walking from Fort Worth to Washington, somebody would pay attention.
She specifically walked 2.5 miles each day, to represent the two and a half years southern U.S. slaves had to wait to be freed after the Emancipation Proclamation. Opal also gathered 1.5 million signatures supporting her cause and delivered them to Congress. Finally, on June 17, 2021, President Biden made it an official U.S. holiday.
Opal has since been nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize and given an honorary doctorate for her impressive work as an activist and educator. She also released this fabulous book – Juneteenth: A Children's Story.
We love how Opal described her mission:
I want freedom for everyone…In the education system, we have been told that we can’t tell the truth. People need to know what has actually happened so that they can heal from it. This is the only way we can be sure that it never happens again.
Opal Lee hasn’t stopped walking. Today, she is continuing her journey with Opal’s Walk for Freedom. Try celebrating Juneteenth with your family by reading her book or taking your own commemorative stroll.
2. Take a Juneteenth online class
Juneteenth is more than just a celebration of freedom and emancipation. It’s a milestone holiday in Black History, celebrating the beginning of liberation of enslaved people.
But it’s important to recognize that slavery didn’t end until the early 1940’s when Attorney General Francis Biddle issued “a directive – Circular No. 3591 – to all federal prosecutors acknowledging the history of unwritten federal policy to ignore most reports of involuntary servitude.” Learn more about post-civil war slavery.
Yet, in too many ways, slavery continues through systemic racism, the prison industrial complex, police abuse, and redlining – to name only a few.
Observing holidays like Juneteenth can be a great way to start meaningful conversations with your kids about these critical issues. Here are a few ways you can help your family learn about and celebrate Juneteenth.
Celebrate Juneteenth with these 5 Outschool classes
With over 140,000 online classes, your kids decide how they want to learn at Outschool. Here are a few of our Juneteenth classes that will help your kids discover history in a whole new way.
Juneteenth Celebration: Story Time (ages 6-11) $10
Celebrate Juneteenth through story time, arts, and crafts. Kids get to learn about Juneteenth in a fun and interactive way.
Juneteenth Edition: Soul Food Kitchen Classics (ages 14-17) $15
Your teen will learn how to bake and cook soul food, including specific recipes that influential women have made famous.
African American History: Why Juneteenth Is Important (ages 7-12) $10
Zhane A. explains what it meant for African Americans to be freed from slavery and why this day is so important.
Celebrate Juneteenth! (ages 4-7) $7
In this class, kids explore Juneteenth with a craft, science experiment, and a mini-parade!
Juneteenth: The History of the Holiday With Art & Geography (ages 8-12) $12
Teacher Elaine offers a unique perspective on the Juneteenth holiday by exploring art and geography.
3. Dig into Juneteenth resources
Whether you're new to Juneteenth or have been celebrating it all of your life, there are some fantastic resources for kids and adults. Below are a few to get you started.
- The New York Times Guide to Juneteenth – The History of a New Holiday
- How to talk to your kids about the history of Juneteenth
- 10 Things You Should Know About Juneteenth
- The beautiful symbolism behind the Juneteenth flag
- Penguin Random House Juneteenth reading list
- Reading list for kids, teens, and adults
We hope this Juneteenth your family finds some time to celebrate the progress that’s been made and the leaders who are paving the way, even as we see how far we still have to go.