Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, celebrates the date when Major General Granger and Union troops reached Galveston, Texas with news that the civil war had ended; it represents the end of slavery in the United States of America. This news came to Texas two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
This Freedom Day (some say the USA’s true Independence Day) has the chance to be a national holiday with legislative packages from both Democrats and Republicans, announced on the same day. But for children, understanding the impact and reasons to celebrate is best told through stories.
In the mid-1990’s, Montclair’s own Valerie Wesley wrote FREEDOM’S GIFTS, a wonderful picture book set in Texas in 1943. By contrasting two cousins’ vastly differing attitudes towards the holiday, the story emphasizes generational connections and storytelling as a way to convey the importance of commemorating the day. The storybook also emphasizes, through the “white only” signs and other references to segregation, that there is still much work to be done. Still, the cousins learn from their great-great-aunt, once enslaved, that celebrating the holiday and acknowledging change deserves to be honored as well. This book is very hard to find, so for more children’s book ideas celebrating Juneteenth, check out Colours of Us.
If children (and their adults) want to support the push to make Juneteenth a national holiday, encourage them to write to and call their elected representatives to let them know! Contact information is here. In addition, today’s student-led Blackout Rally is happening at 1 PM and is open to all ages.