Juneteenth was officially designated a federal holiday last year. However, it has been recognized as a day of celebration since 1865. It marks the date that enslaved Black people in Texas learned of their freedom, more than two years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It has been commemorated by Black Americans ever since.
This year, Juneteenth falls on Sunday, so the public holiday will be observed on Monday, June 20th. Your kids will be home from school and you may have the day off as well. Those of us who are not Black may well be wondering whether, and how, we should mark the Juneteenth holiday with our families. It’s a question that requires some thought.
First, a word of caution. Juneteenth is a Black holiday. If you’re not Black, it’s not your holiday. (Check out Sa’iyda Shabazz’s powerful op-ed “Everyone Should Acknowledge Juneteenth — But Don't Celebrate It Unless You're Black.”) This year has already seen numerous attempts to appropriate and monetize the holiday (e.g. Juneteenth-themed ice cream from Walmart and a Juneteenth Soul Food event in Little Rock with White hosts). These attempts have been met with anger from Black communities. As the linked articles make clear, appropriation is not the right way to approach the holiday.
But, just as importantly, we should not ignore the holiday. If we ignore it, we miss a natural opportunity to reckon with history and (re)commit to racial justice.
So what should we do instead?
Books & More for Kids
While it is convenient to find video read alouds of picture books online, we encourage you to (also) purchase the books, if possible, to support the authors and show that you value books like these.
Juneteenth for Mazie, by Floyd Cooper.
Picture book for ages 6–9.“
All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom, by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis.
Picture book for ages 5–9.
Juneteenth: Freedom at Last” from Minnesota History.
This well-produced 6-minute video offers an overview of the holiday's history and a discussion of contemporary celebrations. It’s appropriate for children and adults alike.
Time for Kids' article “A Juneteenth Celebration” discusses the origins of the holiday and how it is celebrated today.
Resources for Adults
So You Want to Learn about Juneteenth?
Article from the New York Times.
Why All Americans should Honor Juneteenth
Historian Karlos K. Hill explains the history and significance of the holiday in a 7-minute video on Vox.
Radio Boston Interview with Annette Gordon-Read, author of On Juneteenth
Family-Friendly Juneteenth Events
Juneteenth Freedom Day: Celebrating Black Joy
When: Sunday, June 19th, 1-3pm
Where: Starlight Square in Central Square, Cambridge (84 Norfolk St.)
What: We will center JOY with live performances from our youth. The Cambridge Families of Color Coalition is calling in the entire city to celebrate Juneteenth together in a joyous community.
Juneteenth Celebration, Cambridge Public Library
When: Saturday, June 18th, 12-2pm (and other events throughout the week)
Where: Cambridge Public Library, Central Square Branch, 45 Pearl Street
What: Storyteller Valerie Stevens, Music from Albino Mbie Band, Craft Table, Sidewalk chalk drawing, cupcakes
Juneteenth Celebration in Newton
When: Sunday, June 19th, 12-4pm
Where: Newton North High School
What: Food trucks, vendors, art, raffles, games, DJ Firestarta