June 19th has been celebrated as African American Independence Day since 1865, when people in Galveston, Texas, celebrated the Emancipation Proclamation.
You will have noticed that it was by that time a couple of years late. There are many different theories about why it took so long for the news to arrive in Texas. By that time, it might be that there had been numerous celebrations about it already in many different places. And of course it was a bit later that slavery actually ended in the United States. However, it was June 19th — Juneteenth — that stuck as a day to commemorate the end of slavery in our nation.
Juneteenth is an official holiday in many states, including my state, Arkansas.
Juneteenth celebrations were big public to-dos in Benton County, Arkansas, into the early 20th century, and the custom has been revived in the 21st century. You can find lists of local Juneteenth celebrations, or list your own, at Juneteenth.com. We say why not extend the celebration, or at least the study, into your classroom, leading up to some partying on the big day?
Here are some quick things you can do with your kids at home or in the classroom:
- Try a Juneteenth reading comprehension worksheet — it’s a PDF file.
- Read about Juneteenth and compare it with other holidays.
- Check out Enchanted Learning’s Juneteenth pages.
- Send a Juneteenth ecard.
- Read Juneteenth poetry, and try writing your own.
- Try a simple PDF worksheet on The Emancipation Proclamation. This worksheet asks students to paraphrase passages from the document, so it’s a good practice for paraphrasing, too.
- Read Juneteenth, a simple but effective picture book about the celebration.
More Juneteenth books: