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.
On that day—which was over two months after General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, ending of the U.S. Civil War—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, their freedom had been long-delayed; it had been two and a half years since President Abraham Lincoln first issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, declaring at that time that all enslaved individuals in the rebelling, Confederate states, “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” At that time, however, as the Civil War raged on, the law could not be effectively implemented in states under Confederate control.
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.
Today, the legacy of those years continues, as Juneteenth, which was recognized as a federal holiday for the first time in 2021, continues 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 this teaching, learning, and thinking about Juneteenth for both families, students, and educators. They include exhibits and textual summaries created by museums, news organizations, and educators, live events, and multimedia pieces. While these materials are particularly applicable to June 19, this is work for today, tomorrow, and beyond.
Events & Activities
Join in on the celebrations happening throughout the weekend of Juneteenth (Friday, June 16–Monday, June 19, 2023) all across the City:
- Celebrate at the14th Annual Juneteenth NYC Festival in Brooklyn from Friday, June 16 through Sunday, June 18, with virtual and in-person events taking place all weekend long, including a parade on Saturday, June 17, which begins at Grand Army Plaza.
- Head to the Seneca Village Juneteenth Celebration in Central Park on Saturday, June 17 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 17 from 1 PM – 4 PM 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 17 from 4–6 PM, including an opportunity to learn about history, horsemanship and riding with the Federation of Black Cowboys.
- Head to the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn for their Second Annual Juneteenth Food Festival, a celebration of Black culture, Black history and Black freedom in Brooklyn on Saturday, June 17 and Sunday, June 18 from 12–7 PM.
- Explore resources and upcoming events from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to celebrate throughout the weekend.
- Check out even more events happening all weekend long at NYC Parks across the City.
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 that we hope you will enjoy and learn from this weekend, and all year long.
Early Readers (Pre-K–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, by Glenda Armand
- Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation, by Pat Sherman; illustrated by Floyd Cooper
- Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem, by Soujourner Kincaid Rolle; illustrated by by Alex Bostic
- Freedom Bird, by Jerdione Nolen; illustrated by James E. Ransome
- The History of Juneteenth, by Arlisha Norwood
- Opal Lee and What it Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth, by Alice Faye Duncan
Middle Grades (6–8)
- Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives, and Dreams Brought to Life, by Ashley Bryan
- Freedom’s a-Calin Me, by Netozke Shange; illustrated by Rod Brown
- Juneteenth, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Drew Nelson
- 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
Young Adult (9–12)
- Crossing Ebenezer Creek, by Tonya Bolden
- Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow, by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
- Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland
- My Name is Not Friday, by Jon Walter
- We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide, by Carol Anderson
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 their “Celebrate Juneteenth” collection
, which features over 50 titles to choose from.
Video and Audio Resources
Resources for Educators
The DOE’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.