Celebrating Juneteenth 2024: Children’s Books and Activities for Families and Educators

by The Black Excellence Resource Group Network at Waterford

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Happy Juneteenth! This American holiday is celebrated annually on June 19th and marks a significant historical moment in Black American heritage. Originating as a Texas tradition in 1866, it became a federal holiday in 2021.

Discover children’s books at your local or school library that explore the significance of Juneteenth. These stories serve as both Windows and Mirrors, giving children a mixture of stories where they can see their own experiences reflected and others that introduce them to new perspectives different from their own.

Read on to find suggestions for activities, for home or classroom, that honor Black American culture and heritage. Whether reading stories about the first Juneteenth or participating in local events, these activities provide meaningful ways for families and educators to deepen young learners’ appreciation of American history.

 

The History of Juneteenth

Juneteenth, celebrated annually on June 19th, commemorates the freedom of Black Americans from enslavement in Texas on June 19, 1865. This was more than two months after the end of the Civil War and two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln first issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Even after the announcement, it took time for those freedoms to begin to take effect. Black Texans began celebrating Juneteenth the next year in 1866. The celebration grew among Black communities in the United States. Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth a holiday in 1979. Today, Juneteenth is observed nationwide, and it became a federal holiday in 2021.

 

7 of the Best Juneteenth Books for Children

Reading books about Juneteenth is an excellent way to celebrate with your students or family. These seven children’s books all explore the importance and history of Juneteenth, featuring celebrations from the 1800s to today.

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

This picture book retells the story of the first Juneteenth from a child’s perspective. If you and your child are interested in learning more about the events leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation, this is a great place to start.

Juneteenth for MazieOpal Lee and What it Means to Be Free by Floyd Cooper

Mazie is excited to attend a Juneteenth celebration. Follow along as she learns about the significance of the holiday and celebrates with her family.

Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle

In this free verse poem accompanied by beautiful illustrations, the author describes the many ways Juneteenth has been celebrated from 1865 to the present day.

Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth by Alice Faye Duncan

Black activist Opal Lee’s advocacy for Juneteenth helped lead to its declaration as a federal holiday in 2021. Learn more about how Opal Lee’s childhood shaped her efforts to push for national recognition of this holiday as an adult.

The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah L. Agostini

This educational picture book teaches children about the significance of Juneteenth and includes a timeline of key events in the United States leading up to June 19, 1865.

Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford

Cassandra is homesick after moving from the city to her parents’ small Texas hometown. But when she and her family attend a Juneteenth celebration, Cassidy begins to feel connected to her new town.

What is Juneteenth? by Kirsti Jewel

This middle grade book is perfect for teaching elementary school-aged children about the history of Juneteenth, from the past to the present day.

 

Additional Activities to Celebrate Juneteenth with Young Learners

Celebrate and Honor Black History with More Children’s Books

Good Trouble coverJuneteenth is significant, but it marks just one event of many in Black American history. The National Museum of African-American History and Culture offers many online resources to learn more about Black history.

Plus, you can share these Waterford picture books available in English and Spanish with children to learn about Black American historical figures:

Attend Local Juneteenth Events

Your community may be holding marches, festivals, or other events that you can be part of. Want to find Juneteenth events in your area? Search online for “Juneteenth events for families near me” or “Juneteenth activities for children near me.”

By honoring Juneteenth, engaging in local activities, and celebrating Black culture, your family or classroom can recognize this holiday’s significance and deepen your understanding of American history.

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The mission of B.E.R.G.N. is to advance a diverse and inclusive work environment at Waterford.org with a focus on belonging by providing a safe space for our members to be their authentic selves. By harnessing the power of our extensive network, we promote internal and external activities to support and invest in professional development and help attract, retain, empower, celebrate, and inspire others.

Our Waterford Mission Alignment: The Black Excellence Resource Group Network is committed to engaging with humility, integrity, and inclusivity; being respectful of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skill sets; collaborating effectively to produce creative and impactful solutions; and improving by setting challenging goals, measuring results, and learning from experience.

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