Whether your family honors Juneteenth every year or you’re wondering “what is Juneteenth and why is it important?” you’re in the right place. Read on to learn more about this holiday, how to celebrate Juneteenth and how to talk about Juneteenth with the young people in your life.
In 2021, Juneteenth became recognized as a federal holiday in the United States. For some Americans, it’s a new holiday to learn more about. But for many Black families and communities across the nation, it’s a well-known time to celebrate liberation, culture and joy.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared a formal end to slavery in the United States. However, change was not instant after the proclamation. Nearly two and a half years later, on June 19th, 1865, the enslaved African Americans of Galveston, Texas got the news by way of the Union army troops that freedom had come at last.
The next year, the people of Galveston commemorated that day as Juneteenth, a celebration of freedom. Since then, it’s been observed in communities and states as a holiday, but officially recognized as a federal holiday in 2021.
Why is the holiday called Juneteenth? The name blends the month and the day this news reached the people of Galveston: “June” plus “nineteenth” is Juneteenth. It’s also often called Emancipation Day or Freedom Day.
When talking about Juneteenth with children and teens, it’s important to remember that Juneteenth is a celebration – a celebration of freedom and the joyful recognition of the perseverance and spirit of Black people in this nation.
With that in mind, adjust your conversation to your child’s personal development, maturity level and what they’re learning about. For young children, you can share that Juneteenth is a holiday that celebrates freedom for all people in the United States. Define the word “freedom” and talk about what freedom means to them.
If your child is learning about American history, this short video from PBS Kids helps kids explore the history of Juneteenth and how it’s celebrated by families today.
Teenagers can have more nuanced conversations around Juneteenth – exploring concepts of freedom and civil rights, racism and prejudice, and modern-day racial injustice. Many Boys & Girls Clubs across the country host town halls, panels and other discussions for teens to be able to talk about racial inequity and other critical issues on their minds, asking for their critical thinking around how to inspire positive change in our nation.
Juneteenth isn’t just about celebrating a day or a single historical event – it’s a celebration of freedom, resilience, community and the possibilities of good things to come. Here are some great ways to celebrate Juneteenth with the young people in your life:
Create opportunities for youth to connect with the important people in their lives and the histories and stories that make us who we are.
The passing down of stories and history is a central way that Black people have connected and remained resilient over generations. For younger kids, ask them to interview their parent, grandparent or neighbor about their childhood, lessons learned throughout life and what they hope their legacy will be. For older kids and families, StoryCorps has a platform that allows individuals to ask questions, listen and share stories that are then archived at the Library of Congress. Choose a family member with knowledge of family history and dive into a conversation that the next generation can carry on. Here are StoryCorps’ tips to get conversations started.
Juneteenth is a time for reflection, education and most importantly, celebration. By sharing Juneteenth with the young person in your life, you’re educating them on American history, the perseverance and spirit of Black people in this nation and the joy of freedom.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America provides safe places, caring mentors and life-enhancing programs that boost youth self-esteem, build confidence and contribute to overall positive and healthy wellbeing. Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest resources and stories.