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Juneteenth: Listen, Learn, and Celebrate African-American History with your Family

We encourage you to listen, learn, reflect, speak out, and celebrate African-American history and heritage on Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) - Friday, June 19th, 2020.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day and Cel-Liberation Day, is a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and told slaves of their emancipation (CNN + History Channel, 2020). Learn more about Juneteenth's history here.

Emancipation Proclamation

Although President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years prior, (on January 1st, 1863), Texas was the last state to have the proclamation announced, so Juneteenth marks the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the United States (Wikipedia, 2020).

Juneteenth Today

“Today, Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future. Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long overdue. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society” (Juneteenth.com, 2020).

United in Mamahood

While we still have a long way to go to combat racism, racial discrimination, and equality, we’re calling on humans -- especially mothers -- to make sure Juneteenth’s history is talked about, honored, and that respect is paid for the sufferings of slavery. We are committed to raising future generations who are kind, open-minded, respectful of all cultures, educated on African American history, and empowered to be loving and inclusive. We are #unitedinmamahood.

Honor History with your Family

Here are a few suggestions on what you can do with your children (via New York Public Library & Juneteenth.com):

  • Storytell and educate with these recommended books on Juneteenth - All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, art by E.B. Lewis, Juneteenth for Maizie by Floyd Cooper, Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford, art by Yvonne Buchanan, Juneteenth by Rachel Koestler-Grack, Let's Celebrate Emancipation Day & Juneteenth by Barbara deRubertis, The Story of Juneteenth: An Interactive History Adventure by Steven Otfinoski.

  • Celebrate African American heritage and tradition with crafts and activities - Traditional African American Arts and Activities by Sonya Kimble-Ellis shows how to make a Juneteenth picnic basket as well as games and activities for any time of the year.
  • Plan a family BBQ - discuss what Juneteenth means, exchange facts or quotes from history, and serve traditional foods like strawberry soda (the first drink freed slaves celebrated with was a red soda, which they weren't able to drink as slaves), barbecue, collard greens, fried chicken, cornbread, sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas, watermelon, tea cakes, and more. Food has always been an important part of Juneteenth gatherings; four African-American chefs share what the famous Emancipation holiday means to them here.
  • Learn, sing and dance - Commemorate Juneteenth by going over African-American folktales, songs, and hymns; teach about their significance. Music was a way for slaves to express their feelings whether it was sorrow, joy, inspiration or hope; songs were passed down from generation to generation throughout slavery (PBS, 2020).
  • Use your voice - Encourage your neighborhood and local businesses to decorate and display Juneteenth signs and banners. Make signs with your kids to hang up around your house or display in your front windows. You can learn more about the Juneteenth flag and its colors here.

Originally posted on the FIT4MOM Blog by Shelley Hopper.

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