Juneteenth—also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day—is an American holiday celebrated annually on June 19 commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. New York State officially recognized Juneteenth as a holiday for the first time in 2021. That same year, President Joe Biden signed a bill to commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
The very first Juneteenth celebration took place on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, marking the end of the Civil War and slavery across Texas.
Over two years earlier, at the stroke of midnight on the eve of January 1, 1863 (“Freedom’s Eve”), when the Emancipation Proclamation took effect, all enslaved people in the Confederate States were declared legally free. Union soldiers marched onto plantations and across cities in the South reading small copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and spreading the news of freedom.
But the conflict of Civil War still raged across the land, and the Emancipation Proclamation 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.
Over two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the Civil War, freedom finally reached the people of Texas on June 19, 1865. On this day, some 2,000 Union troops led by General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to deliver General Order No. 3, announcing that the more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state were now free by executive decree.
This historic day was celebrated by Black people across Texas as “Jubilee Day” until the 1890s. The annual ritual that would become known as “Juneteenth” gradually spread throughout the South, and then, eventually, the rest of the country via the Great Migration.
Juneteenth festivities throughout mid-to-late 1800s not only featured music, dancing, storytelling, and food, but also served as voter registration events where “freedmen” could learn more about their new rights as citizens.
For years, Juneteenth festivities served not only as a way for Black people to celebrate the anniversary of their freedom, but as acts of resistance across Texas and throughout the South, where many white people remained fiercely opposed to emancipation. Black people used public celebrations like Juneteenth to tell a positive story about their history; celebrate Black soldiers and workers; chart a path forward for their communities; and create an enduring cultural legacy for Black Americans.
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 the DOE’s ongoing commitment to culturally responsive-sustaining education, providing our students with the opportunity to 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. Below 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, news organizations, and educators, live events, and multimedia pieces.
New York City’s educators are already engaging students in the history of Juneteenth, and this is meant to complement those efforts. While these materials are particularly applicable to June 19, this is work for today, tomorrow, and beyond.
Content drawn from “The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth” by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a museum of the Smithsonian.
Resources for Families
Learn More About the History and Meaning of Juneteenth Through Videos, Texts, and Multimedia
National Museum of African American History & Culture Juneteenth: Senses of Freedom
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American and History will host a variety of virtual and in-person events and programs highlighting the experiences of African American Juneteenth celebrations—including presentations, stories, photographs, online resources, and recipes: Juneteenth, Senses of Freedom: The Taste, Sound, and Experience of an African American Celebration
NYCDOE Juneteenth Reading List
Dive in deeper with this curated collection of 51 ebooks and 13 audiobooks for learning more about Juneteenth: Commemorate Juneteenth
The Citywide Digital Library on Sora is available to NYCDOE students and teachers by logging into the Sora app with their NYCDOE credentials. General instructions for Sora are available at discoversora.com/nyc.
This web portal gathers Juneteenth related information, activities, and supplies.
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation: Celebrate Juneteenth
A website with resources and videos for learning more about Juneteenth. Includes a link to a live stream of a Community Interfaith Experience to celebrate Juneteenth Independence Day at 9AM on Sunday, June 19.
What Is Juneteenth?
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture
Learn about 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
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
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.