Juneteenth is a celebration of the day in 1865 that word of Lincoln's signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves, made its way to the state of Texas. The celebration name is a combination of "June" and "Nineteenth"—the day that the celebration takes place.
Juneteenth has grown into a heritage-centered event that focuses on family, community, education, and achievement—but its origins are still very important. How does the historical background of the day, as a celebration of freedom for the slaves of Texas, compare to other important celebrations of freedom in the United States?
Invite your students to compare Juneteenth celebrations to Fourth of July celebrations, using the Venn Diagram. What events take place on the two days? What do people do? How are the events described in the media? When students notice differences between the celebrations, ask them to hypothesize about the reasons. Conclude the discussion by asking students what conclusions they can draw about the ways that people celebrate and define freedom in the U.S.
Want to see what the original Emancipation Proclamation looked like? Visit the National Archives and Records Administration site, which includes historical background and photographs of the document.
This site explores the origins and history of the holiday, along with how to celebrate it in the workplace, community, and home.
This Library of Congress "America's Story" site explains the background and local celebrations of the emancipation in Texas.
Here is a list of books to introduce the holiday's stories and traditions to the youngest readers.