Juneteenth—also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day—is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, and has been celebrated every year since June 19, 1865.

Six men, the Emancipation Day Band, in the year 1900. They are carry instruments, wearing suits and hats, and in front of an American flag.
Emancipation Day Celebration band, June 19, 1900, Texas, USA Photographer noted as: Mrs. Charles Stephenson (Grace Murray)

It was on that day—over two months after General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, ending the U.S. Civil War—that 2,000 Union troops led by General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to deliver General Order Number 3, announcing that “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

For the 250,000 enslaved people across Texas, freedom had been long-delayed; it had been two and a half years since President Abraham Lincoln first issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which stated declaring at that time that “all persons held as slaves within any State…in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” However, as the Civil War raged on, the law could not be enforced  in states under Confederate control. While it would take several more months for slavery to become completely abolished within the United States—which happened when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in December 1865—Juneteenth marks the day that the intent behind the Emancipation Proclamation was finally realized and hundreds of thousands of enslaved people finally became free. 

Early Juneteenth celebrations featured music, dancing, storytelling, and food, while often also serving as voter registration events where “freedmen” could learn more about their new rights as citizens. Juneteenth festivities were not just a way to celebrate an anniversary, but were also acts of resistance throughout the South, where many people remained fiercely opposed to emancipation after it was granted. Celebrations also spread across the country as people moved north and west during the Great Migration.

Since 2021, Juneteenth has been recognized as a  federal holiday, and the annual celebrations continue to provide an opportunity for Black Americans to tell positive stories about their history, create an enduring cultural legacy, and chart a path forward. 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 teaching and learning about Juneteenth for families, students, and educators. They include exhibits and materials created by museums, news organizations, and educators, live events, and more. While these materials are particularly applicable to June 19, we hope you continue to use them today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Events, Exhibitions, and Places to Visit

Join in on the celebrations happening on and around Juneteenth all across New York City:

  • Celebrate at the15th Annual Juneteenth NYC Festival in Brooklyn from Thursday, June 13 through Wednesday, June 19, with virtual and in-person events taking place all week long, including a parade on Saturday, June 15, which begins at Grand Army Plaza.
  • Head to the Seneca Village Juneteenth Celebration in Central Park on Saturday, June 15 for a free, family-friendly day filled with dance, music, art-making, comedy, and more!
  • The Juneteenth Family Day will take place at Green-Wood Cemetery on Saturday, June 15 from 1PM–4PM and is a great opportunity to learn more about Black History and celebrate the holiday.
  • Learn about the history of Juneteenth at the 17th Annual Juneteenth Celebration in Battery Park! Join in on family friendly activities on Saturday, June 15 from 2–5PM, including an opportunity to learn about history, see a performance celebrating the music of the African Diaspora, and riding with the Federation of Black Cowboys.
  • Head to the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn for their Third Annual Juneteenth Food Festival, a celebration of Black culture, Black history and Black freedom in Brooklyn on Saturday, June 15  from 11AM–8PM.
  • Check out even more events happening in celebration of Juneteenth at  NYC Parks and at New York Public Library branches across the city.

Reading  List

Frederick Douglass once said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” Celebrate the spirit of Juneteenth with book suggestions for students of all ages about the history of the holiday, the Reconstruction era in the United States, and more. We hope you will enjoy and learn from them today, and all year long.

Early Readers (3K–Grade 2)

  • All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom, by Angela Johnson; illustrated by E.B. Lewis
  • A Flag for Juneteenth, by Kim Taylor
  • Juneteenth for Mazie, by Floyd Cooper
  • Juneteenth Jamboree, by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan
  • The Night Before Freedom: A Juneteenth Story, by Glenda Armand; illustrated by Corey Barksdale 

Elementary (Grades 3–5)

  • Freedom Bird, by Jerdine Nolen; illustrated by James E. Ransome
  • The History of Juneteenth, by Arlisha Norwood
  • Juneteenth, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Drew Nelson; illustrated by Mark Schroder 
  • Opal Lee and What it Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth, by Alice Faye Duncan; illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
  • The Juneteenth Cookbook: Recipes and Activities for Kids and Families to Celebrate, by Alliah L. Agostini with Taffy Elrod; illustrated by Sawyer Cloud

Middle School (Grades 6–8)

  • Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. with Tonya Bolden 
  • Freedom Over Me, by Ashley Bryan
  • Hidden Black History: From Juneteenth to Redlining, by Amanda Jackson Green
  • The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States, by Alliah L. Agostini; illustrated by Sawyer Cloud
  • The Story of Juneteenth: An Interactive History Adventure, by Steven Otfinoski

Upper Grades (Grades 9–12)

  • Black Was the Ink, by Michelle Coles
  • Crossing Ebenezer Creek, by Tonya Bolden
  • Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland
  • My Name is Not Friday, by Jon Walter
  • We Are Not Yet Equal, by Carol Anderson with Tonya Bolden 

Many of these books are readily available via New York’s public libraries, as well as through the Citywide Digital Library available on Sora, where you can also find even more great suggestions for students of all ages in the “Commemorate Juneteenth” collection, which features dozens of titles to choose from.

Video and Audio Resources

  • "More Than a Brook: Brooklyn Abolitionist Heritage Walk” is an interactive audio tour created by Kamau Studios and Black Gotham experience that is available on the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission website. It explores Brooklyn’s history as a critical neighborhood for the National Abolitionist Movement and the Underground Railroad.
  • Juneteenth Jamboree on PBS explores the history of Juneteenth celebrations through multimedia.
  • This Is Why Juneteenth is Important is a short video from The Root explaining the history and significance of the holiday.
  • “The History and Meaning of Juneteenth” from the New York Times podcast The Daily is a 2020 episode featuring a discussion about emancipation with Dr. Daina Ramey Berry, a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.

Resources for Educators

  • NYCPS’s Juneteenth Resource Guide has a wide range of materials to use in the classroom, during Juneteenth and throughout the year, for students of all ages, including lesson plans, discussion questions, and primary sources that teach about the history and meaning of the holiday.
  • In addition, check out our InfoHub page on Fostering Ongoing Dialogue and Action About Race and Equity.
  • Explore Juneteenth resources from the New York Public Library including reading lists, archival materials, educator resources, and more.
  • Explore resources from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
  • The Gilder Lehrman Institute has a several lessons available for grades 6–12 available through their Juneteenth and Emancipation units, which teach students about the historical significance of Juneteenth through analysis of primary sources.
  • The Library of Congress has collections of primary and secondary sources that teach about the history of the Juneteenth holiday.