7 Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth With Your Kids
The federal holiday honors the end of slavery in the United States and is a great time for families to celebrate Black history and culture.
- Written By
- Marnie Schwartz
Juneteenth—short for June 19th—marks the day in 1865 when troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of slavery and make sure enslaved people were freed, a full 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The following year, Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, or Emancipation Day, started being celebrated in Texas, and it soon spread throughout the United States. Known as a “second independence day,” it has been long celebrated in the Black community but was not as well-known outside of it.
Recently, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, making it a federal holiday. The holiday is an excellent opportunity to celebrate, honor, learn about and teach your children about Black history and culture. Here are a few ideas to celebrate Juneteenth with your kids.
Attend a celebration in your community.
The original Juneteenth celebrations were community-focused, and included parades, barbecues, readings, performances, and communal prayer. Many cities and towns hold parades and festivals. If your community doesn’t have an event to participate in, look for one being held virtually.
Listen to a traditional folk tale or explore crafts.
The National Museum of African American History & Culture has a full list of resources and activities for celebrating Juneteenth. Embedded in the materials is a video of acclaimed storyteller Diane Macklin sharing a traditional African American folk tale.
Traditional African American Arts and Activities by Sonya Kimble-Ellis is an activity book focusing on seasonal African American celebrations, including a Juneteenth picnic basket.
Explore media that centers the Black experience.
Listen to music by Black artists, choose a film with Black characters for family movie night, and read books by Black authors. Our list of books to bring racial diversity to your kids’ shelves is a great place to start.
Or, read kids’ books together that are about Juneteenth specifically, such as Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper, All Different Now: Juneteenth, The First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford andart by Yvonne Buchanan, or Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea Pinkney with art by Brian Pinkney.
Visit a Black history museum.
Take your little ones on a field trip to learn more about Black history. Visit a local civil rigthts museum or center that centers the Black experience like the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore, MD or the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York, the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, NC or the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
If there aren’t great options in your community, or you’d just like to explore a little further afield, check out these kid-friendly virtual exhibits on African American history.
Prepare and enjoy a Juneteenth meal.
Cookouts and barbecues are a traditional way to celebrate the holiday. Or, try your hand at some soul food recipes. Red foods, including red velvet cake and strawberry soda, are also common traditions. If you aren’t up for a family kitchen adventure, support Black-owned restaurants in your community.
Make a donation or volunteer for racial justice.
Get your kids involved in charitable giving and volunteering by discussing the specific organizations that resonate with you as a family, doing the research on them together, and deciding where to spend your time or your dollars.
Talk about race.
Textsity and fighting prejudice and racism is a lifelong journey that starts young. Not sure where to start? The National Museum of African American History & Culture has resources for parents and caregivers on talking about race, Juneteenth, slav ery and freedom, as well as Sesame Street's videos on racial literacy.