Juneteenth is a celebration that began on June 19th, 1865 when Major General Gordan Granger read General Order Number 3 to the people of Texas declaring that all black slaves were free.
But wait…didn’t President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation become official on January 1, 1863? Well, you’re right. There are many theories about the delay, but one thing is for sure: it took 2 1/2 years to officially reach Texas.
Here is a little more context with quick links below for resources to help the conversation:
Juneteenth or June Nineteenth (also known as Freedom Day) is celebrated every year. Not only does it celebrate the final emancipation of slavery in Texas, but the festivities that followed launched two things into American culture, like strawberry soda-pop and barbecuing. According to Juneteenth.com, it is “the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the 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.”
Juneteenth.com notes that “this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.” When General Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, he first read General Order Number 3 which stated the following:
“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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”
To start this conversation, here are several resources with notable quotes from each on how to speak with kids about this annual celebration:
This year anyone can join in the celebration with virtual events around the U.S. Here are just some of the virtual celebrations taking place: Celebrate Juneteenth (virtually) from anywhere in the nation (12News/Phoneix)
“The most important thing to instill the importance of the day on young kids who don’t already know about the holiday is the significance of the day itself. Much of the significance behind the holiday comes from the fact the order that ended slavery in the union officially came down Jan. 1, 1863. Those 2.5-year difference represents the attitudes toward slaves in the south, and the effort to which people went to stop the spread of news.”
Activities and a list of Juneteenth books for kids.
“Juneteenth gives African-Americans (and indeed everyone living in America) a sense of togetherness. You don’t have to be African-American to join in celebrating the anniversary of the end of slavery. By celebrating the Juneteenth holiday, you are celebrating a holiday just as important as the Fourth of July and Memorial Day. There are many meaningful ways to celebrate Juneteenth with your family. Here is a listing of home activities and children book recommendations. Happy Juneteenth!”
“No one is 100% sure why it took so long. There are several theories, including Texas knowing the news but not wanting to follow the rules, the messenger getting murdered on the way to deliver the news, and so on. However, regardless of how it happened, the important thing to know here is that a man named Major General Gordon Granger was the one to finally bring slavery in Texas to an end.”
“Why is Juneteenth so important? It gives African-Americans (and indeed everyone living in America) a sense of togetherness. You don’t have to be African-American to join in celebrating the anniversary of the end of slavery. Slavery is a terrible thing. Many people of all skin colors fought tirelessly to end it, and their efforts should not go unnoticed. The end of slavery was the beginning of togetherness. Yes, it has come slowly and continues to come slowly. But it is coming.
By celebrating the Juneteenth holiday, you are celebrating a holiday just as important as the Fourth of July and Memorial Day. For without the end of slavery, the great country now known as the United States of America would not have been possible.”
Juneteenth Facts for Kids (Kids Play and Create)
There is a flag that represents juneteenth. It has a rectangle on it. The top of the rectangle is blue and the bottom is red. There is a white 5 point star in the middle.
Juneteenth is celebrated many different ways with bbq’s, readings of poems, singing songs and more. Check out how your state celebrates this special day.
Juneteenth Jamboree (PBS/Video)
“The first African slave in Texas arrived in 1528 with a shipwrecked party of Spanish Conquistadors, but it took until the 19th of June in 1865 to bring slavery’s end to Texas. (And it took all of 1865 to end all slavery in the United States.) Texas celebrates Emancipation Day as Juneteenth.”
These are just some of the resources available to learn more about Juneteenth. How will you celebrate? How will you open up the conversation with your kids about freedom and celebration? How will you learn more?