Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved Texans first learned of their freedom as directed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Known also as America’s second Independence Day, the holiday has periodically been celebrated within African-American communities, but not recognized in the wider culture. That changed in 1980, when Texas established Juneteenth as a state holiday. Since then, many other states have followed suit in acknowledging the importance of this anniversary. Finally on June 17th, 2021, Juneteenth was established as a federal holiday.
Teaching about Juneteenth can be not only an exploration of American history and civil rights, but also a chance to inspire students’ reflections and creativity.
The following top Juneteenth lessons and activities are all free or modestly priced.
- The African Americans: What Is Juneteenth (opens in new tab)?
An in-depth exploration of Juneteenth from Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., this article probes the importance of Juneteenth in relation to other Civil War-era anniversaries, and its continued relevance today. A great starting point for high school discussions or assignments.
- Austin PBS: Juneteenth Jamboree (opens in new tab)
Since 2008, the Juneteenth Jamboree series has marked each year’s celebration in the context of African-American culture and history and the ongoing struggle for equality. A fascinating look at not only the joy of Juneteenth celebrations, but also the opinions and goals of community leaders. Be sure to check out the Juneteenth Jamboree Retrospective (opens in new tab) created during the height of the pandemic.
- The Birth of Juneteenth; Voices of the Enslaved (opens in new tab)
A look at the events of Juneteenth through the voices and views of former enslaved persons, with links to related historic documents, images, and American Folklife Center recorded interviews. An excellent research resource.
- Celebrating Juneteenth (opens in new tab)
Celebrate our country’s “second Independence Day,” with help from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Take a virtual tour through the its Slavery and Freedom exhibition, guided by Founding Director Lonnie Bunch III, who highlights the stories of freedom represented by popular historical artifacts.
- Four Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth with Students (opens in new tab)
Want to go beyond the basic facts of Juneteenth? Try one of these open-ended, creative lesson ideas to help your students gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of Juneteenth as a day representing freedom - if imperfect.
- Google for Education: Create a Flyer for a Juneteenth Celebration (opens in new tab)
A guide for students to create a Juneteenth celebration flyer using Google docs. Sample rubric, lesson plan, and printable Certificate of Completion are all included.
- Juneteenth Activities for the Classroom (opens in new tab)
Students’ reading, writing, research, collaboration and graphics arts skills are all put to good use in this collection of Juneteenth class activities for elementary, middle and high school students.
- Learning for Justice: Teaching Juneteenth (opens in new tab)
Explore viewpoints to consider when teaching Juneteenth, from “culture as resistance” to “American ideals.”
- Library of Congress: Juneteenth (opens in new tab)
A wealth of digital resources, including webpages, images, audio recordings, and video related to Juneteenth. Search by date, location, and format. An ideal start to a Juneteenth paper or project.
- PBS: Juneteenth Video (opens in new tab)
This brief and lively animated video is perfect to get young kids (K-5) up to speed on the basic facts of Juneteenth.
- Teachers Pay Teachers: Juneteenth (opens in new tab)
Find the perfect Juneteenth lesson for your students, no matter the grade or level. Search by format, grade, CCSS, and resource type. Lessons are created by—and rated by—your fellow teachers.
- Why These Teachers and Students Want Juneteenth in the Curriculum (opens in new tab)
Why should schools devote precious teaching time to commemorate an event that many people never heard of until recently? This article, featuring history teacher India Meissel, explains why it matters that students learn about Juneteenth.
- Wikipedia: Juneteenth (opens in new tab)
A highly detailed examination of Juneteenth, its celebration by African Americans through the decades, and its wider recognition in recent years. This article includes historic images, maps, and documents, and is supported by 95 references for deeper exploration.