By Dr. Tehia Starker-Glass, Brownicity Education Advisor 

Juneteenth is the combination of June and nineteenth, the day in 1865 that 250,000 enslaved Africans, in Galveston, TX, were told — two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation — that the Civil War had ended and slavery was no longer legal. 

I did not grow up celebrating this holiday. But once I understood the historical relevance and significance, I hold this day in reverence. Now that I have children of my own, I make sure they understand the significance of Juneteenth. My boys are young (4 and 5.5), so the content is still fairly simple for them; but I do not hold back on sharing about the violence that occurred against Black people.

Juneteenth flag

Here are ways my husband and I help our boys understand the impact and significance of Juneteenth to all Americans.

ONE

Although I know about all the violence white people inflicted on enslaved and free Blacks during enslavement and post Emancipation Proclamation (thank you, Carole Anderson for writing White Rage), I still convey to my boys that white people tried to stop our ancestors (enslaved Blacks) from being free in very mean and hurtful ways. 

TWO

We discuss the two and half years it took for the enslaved in Texas to become free. 

My aunt and uncle in New York mailed us a letter to show the boys how long it can take for a message to arrive from sender to receiver. The boys wait each day for that letter as a representation of how long enslaved Africans must have felt as they worked toward and waited for freedom. 


THREE

We review a historically accurate map of the world to show how large the continent of Africa is, and we also look at the map of the US in 1865. We make connections to our lineage and roots in the south. 

FOUR

From there, we read lots of books about Juneteenth, learn about and color the Juneteenth flag, and sing Lift Every Voice and Sing. This year I decided to make it a June tradition for the boys to learn Lift Every Voice and Sing. They have the tune down, and most of the words to the first verse! 

We wrap up the instructional week by learning about James Weldon Johnson and his brother John Rosamond Johnson, author and composer of Lift Every Voice and Sing.

FIVE

Our culminating event will be local celebrations as well as our own Juneteenth celebration! We will have a nice feast, put the boys in the pool, play some outdoor and indoor games, and light up the fireworks!

My family honors the past by celebrating the future. And with what my husband and I are teaching our boys about themselves and others, their future is as bright as the fireworks! 

DayTopicActivity
MonMap of the World and Map of USExplore the updated map the African continent and Map of US in 1865.
Show how enslavement existed in the south and expanded west. 
TueWhat is Juneteenth?Juneteenth for Maisie (fiction picture book)
What is Juneteenth? (by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)
Explore our ancestors
Who was alive in 1865? 
Adults: Watch Blackish, “Juneteenth” episode
WedJuneteenth Flag and how we celebrate JuneteenthDecorate our house
Honor our ancestors
Honor those who are still present
Support Black-owned businesses
ThuLift Every Voice and Sing
James Weldon Johnson
John Rosamond Johnson
Sing Live Every Voice & Sing
Listen to different versions of the song on youtube
Learn about JWJ and his brother
FriJUNETEENTH CelebrationCreate a family Tree
Food, fun, family, fireworks, and games! 
Charlotte area celebrations

Dr. Tehia Starker-Glass is a motherscholar, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology and Elementary Education, Cato College of Education Director of Diversity and Inclusion, and Program Director of the Anti-Racism in Urban Education Graduate Certificate Program. Her research and teaching revolves around supporting teachers to integrate culturally responsive teaching and anti-racism content in their curriculum, and support caregivers in discussing race with children. She, her husband, and two preschool-aged boys live in Charlotte, NC.