This year is the perfect time to educate ourselves, and our children, in the meaning of Juneteenth. Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, is also called Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, Black Independence Day, and Emancipation Day. Although there is a push to make Juneteenth a national holiday, it has yet to receive that designation. Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as a special day of observance, however. (North Dakota, South Dakota, and Hawaii do not recognize Juneteenth.) Nike, Target, and JC Penney are among the businesses that recognize the holiday with paid time off, or time-and- a-half for those choosing to work.
June 19, 1865, is the day that Major General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, to announce the Civil War had ended and slaves had been freed. This announcement was made 2-1/2 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. From that point forward, Juneteenth was celebrated only occasionally until the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s & 1960’s, when the celebration was revived.
Juneteenth is usually celebrated with family reunions and social events where strawberry soda and strawberry pie are served. Other foods often associated with Juneteenth are red rice (rice with tomatoes), watermelon, and red velvet cake. These red foods commemorate the blood spilled during the days of slavery. Churches often observe Juneteenth with special services featuring traditional African American music and hymns.
There are many good books about Juneteenth. The following books are recommended by coloursofus.com. They include:
All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, appropriate for ages 5 – 8. (Reviewed as “most beautiful Juneteenth book we have ever seen.”)
Freedom’s Gifts: A Juneteenth Story by Valerie Wesley, appropriate for elementary students. Good introduction to the subjects of slavery, Juneteenth, and segregation.
Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom by Charles Taylor, appropriate for ages 10 & up. Contains archival photos and historical context and documents.
Come Juneteenth by Ann Rinaldi, YA historical novel. Born a slave, Sis Goose was “adopted” into the slave owner’s family after her own mother died. After learning freedom had been declared 2 years before her family bothered to tell her, she ran away. The book movingly tells the story of family, freedom, and the historical events leading to Juneteenth.
by Jean Swenson
Faithful Voices for Racial Justice
A project of Interfaith Alliance of Iowa