What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is observed each year in the United States on June 19. Juneteenth is short for June 19 – the day in 1865 when 250,000 people in Galveston, TX were told they had been freed from slavery.
The holiday was officially declared a federal holiday in 2021, although it’s been celebrated in various parts of the country since 1865. The date has also been referred to as Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Black Emancipation Day.
How do I describe Juneteenth to my child?
The federal holiday offers a unique opportunity to talk to children about history, slavery, racism, and celebrating diversity. A child may be out of school or a parent may be off work during this day, and the question may naturally come up: “What is Juneteenth?”
How you talk about the holiday and its history will likely depend on your child’s age and the types of conversations you’ve had surrounding this topic previously. Tackling complex topics like slavery, especially with younger children, can be daunting. Still, many parents and caregivers recognize the importance of having open, honest conversations with children about the world they live in as a vital part of raising strong, compassionate, and competent children.
Before jumping into complex conversations, you may consider the following tactics:
- Talk in appropriate terms
- First, ask your child what they know or think about the topics
- Take pauses and let the child guide the conversation with questions
- Try not to offer more information than they can process at one time; consider breaking up the topic into several conversations
- Use reputable resources, books, and learning materials to help prepare and guide the conversation
What resources are there for talking to a child about Juneteenth and the United State’s history with slavery?
- Bookshop.org curated this list of Juneteenth-specific books
- This list of 8 children’s books talk about the history of slavery
- This list of more than 60 books about slavery and resistance from Social Justice Books is broken up by recommended age range
- Online resources:
- PBS offers several resources, including printables, to help talk to children about racism
- Local events:
- Since Juneteenth became a federal holiday, many cities and organizations started hosting local events to commemorate the day on or around June 19.
These events offer unique opportunities for children and their families to form deeper connections with their communities and to spur conversations about acceptance, love, and diversity. Just Google “Juneteenth events near me” to see local events happening in your area.