On “Freedom’s Eve,” or the eve of January 1, 1863, the first Watch Night services took place. On that night, enslaved and free African Americans gathered in churches and private homes all across the country awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect. At the stroke of midnight, prayers were answered as all enslaved people in the Confederate States were declared legally free. Union soldiers, many of whom were black, marched onto plantations and across cities in the south reading small copies of the Emancipation Proclamation spreading the news of freedom.
But not everyone in Confederate territory would immediately be free. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, it could not be implemented in places still under Confederate control. As a result, in the westernmost Confederate state of Texas, enslaved people would not be free until much later. Freedom finally came on June 19, 1865, when some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in the state were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as "Juneteenth" by the newly freed people in Texas.
From “The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth” by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a museum of the Smithsonian
Teaching, learning, and discussing the history of Juneteenth in our school communities is critical to understanding who we are as a nation. This is part of our commitment to culturally responsive-sustaining education. This means that our students can see themselves—and their history—in the lessons and materials of their education.
Learning about Juneteenth is part of a broader education of the practice, impact, and legacy of slavery that speaks to Black history in this country—and therefore American history at large. Today, we offer resources for this teaching, learning, and thinking about Juneteenth for both families and educators. They include exhibits and textual summaries created by museums, live events, and multimedia pieces.
Many of our educators have already been engaging students in the history of Juneteenth, and this is meant to complement those efforts. While these are particularly applicable to June 19, this is work for today, tomorrow, and beyond.
Resources for Families
Join This Live Virtual Event on June 19
The Greenespace: A Juneteenth Celebration
The Greenespace is hosting a free event on Friday, June 19, 2020 at 7PM celebrating Juneteenth. Featuring Nikole Hannah-Jones, Misty Copeland, Cornel West, Savion Glover, and others.
Learn More About the History and Meaning of Juneteenth Through Videos, Texts, and Multimedia
Juneteenth Independence Holiday: Here's What You Need to Know
What Is Juneteenth?
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture
Learn The history and legacy of Juneteenth from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington D.C.
Library of Congress
America’s Story: Juneteenth Celebration: A Local Legacy
KHOU 11 Houston
Watch this local news segment on what Juneteenth celebrates.
What is Juneteenth? Find out and learn what it celebrates.
Watch the video This is Why Juneteenth is Important
Global News Network
Watch the video Black History Month: The meaning behind Juneteenth
Juneteenth Jamboree on PBS explores the history of Juneteenth celebrations through multimedia.
Resources for Educators
Please visit our InfoHub for more resources to celebrate Juneteenth and teach about Race and Equity.