Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, is celebrated every year on June 19th. In 2021, President Biden signed a law making Juneteenth the first new federal holiday in decades.
After President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which had became official January 1, 1863 and called for the immediate liberation of all enslaved people, it took nearly two and a half years for the news to finally reach Texas. On June 19, 1865 the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas and finally delivered the news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. However, even following the announcement, or what is known as Order Number 3, there was still confusion and peril for many enslaved people.
Even against the confusion and violence, the newly “freed” black men and women of Texas and the Freedmen’s Bureau fought for what is now known as Juneteenth. Through grassroots efforts, they transformed June 19 from a day of unheeded military orders into Juneteenth, and the first annual celebration began one year later in 1866.
In 2020, following sweeping local and national protests in reaction to the death of George Floyd on May 25th, Governor Andrew Cuomo officially announced that Juneteenth is now recognized as a state holiday in New York, serving “as a day to recognize the achievements of the Black community, while also providing an important opportunity for self-reflection on the systemic injustices that our society still faces today.”
Below are some videos, resources, and activities to help teach your children about what Juneteenth is, why it is an important historic moment in our country’s history, and how it is celebrated today.
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Learn About Juneteenth
Juneteenth | All About the Holidays
Each June we celebrate the end of slavery in the United States in 1865. Across the country, family and friends gather to celebrate and learn more about the history and experience of African Americans before and after slavery.
Juneteenth | U.S. Department of State
Learn all about Juneteenth, the oldest celebration in the nation to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States, with this article from the U.S. State Department on PBS LearningMedia.
Juneteenth Jamboree History
From the long-running Austin PBS annual program Juneteenth Jamboree, this clip features historian Harrison Eppright as he traces a timeline starting with Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. It took several months for the news of the end of the Civil War to reach Texas. US Major General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Bay on June 19, 1865 to take control of the state and declare all slaves in Texas free under the Emancipation Proclamation – the first Juneteenth. While no longer slaves, African Americans continued to be denied citizens’ rights for the next 100 years.
Juneteenth | Blackademics
Twin sisters Jordan and Mia Smith discuss the history of Juneteenth and its significance in present day America. The sisters explore the historical context of the holiday and offer insight into their own lives.
Local Events & Celebrations
Juneteenth Celebration at John Brown Farm
John Brown Lives will commemorate Juneteenth on Saturday, June 19th from 12 to 5PM. The public is invited to gather at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid. There will be entertainment, a barbecue, and activities for the whole family. Participants are welcome to walk about a “memorial field” of markers at the John Brown Farm that bear silent witness to some of the hundreds of black lives ended in recent years due to police violence and vigilantism.
Discover African-American Farming in Vermont
On Saturday, June 19 from 10 AM to 5 PM, join the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington to celebrate African-American heritage and the history of Black farming in Vermont through seed planting and art-making with Clemmons Family Farm. Families will plant heritage seeds and assemble beautifully illustrated plant IDs to take home and display in commemoration of Juneteenth and Black history.
Potsdam Community-Wide Juneteenth Celebration
The second annual Potsdam community-wide Juneteenth Celebration will be held on Saturday, June 19 from 4 to 9 PM, at the Ives Park Gazebo in Potsdam, New York. The public is invited to learn about Juneteenth and African-American culture through entertainment, brief educational presentations, heritage-rich traditional foods catered by Big Spoon Kitchen, dancing, and fun for all ages. Black Lives Matter Potsdam NY is proud to announce that its Juneteenth Celebration Organizing Committee will present this family-friendly event to celebrate the culture of African-Americans and provide a space for Black voices to be honored.
Learning at Home Programs
In honor of Juneteenth, check out these great programs on the Mountain Lake PBS Learning at Home block! Join us as we celebrate and learn about the history of this important holiday, and about Black culture in America.
Friday, June 18
1:30 PM: Juneteenth Jamboree: From a Free Place to Displace
With the Galveston landing of U.S. Army Gen. Gordon Granger in 1865, slavery in Texas ended. African bondsmen became freedmen, and women and children likewise became African Americans. Many left the plantations to join freedom colonies; others sought out opportunities in cities and towns. Today, the consequences of gentrification and rising property values challenge new generations.
- Program website
- PBS LearningMedia: Juneteenth | U.S. Department of State
2 PM: Amen! Music of the Black Church
Explore the authentic spiritual experience of African American gospel music in the one-hour performance documentary Amen! Music of the Black Church. Taped before a live audience at the Second Baptist Church congregation in Bloomington, Indiana, Rev. Dr. Raymond Wise guides viewers on an educational and uplifting learning experience while leading the Indiana University African American Choral Ensemble in a performance of sacred music deriving from African traditions.