Celebrating Juneteenth: The End of Slavery in America
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a strategic document that freed enslaved people in Confederate states, so that they could fight as soldiers for the Union and eventually end the Civil War. The news that African Americans in Texas had been freed from slavery was slow coming. Without the rapid dissemination of information through technology as we have today, enslaved people did not know they were free until June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was declared. The immediate joy of liberation and freedom spread through Texas like wildfire. African Americans rejoiced in their freedom with the celebration we now know as Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and 19.
Juneteenth celebrations are characterized by their focus on family and food. Typical celebratory dishes include barbecue, strawberry soda, and watermelon. The occasion is marked by gathering with family and friends, playing instruments and singing- not unlike 4th of July celebrations.
Many African Americans celebrated Juneteenth for decades, but knowledge of this Independence Day for enslaved people is still limited as many people outside (and even inside) the Black community do not know about it. On this Juneteenth take some time to seek out videos and books to educate yourself on this important celebration. The knowledge of the struggles African Americans have undergone in this country to be treated with equality may be what is needed to reverse the effects of systemic racism we still see today.
INTERESTED IN TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN MORE ABOUT SLAVERY IN THE UNITED STATES? CHECK OUT SOME OF THESE BOOKS BELOW.
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Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, R. Gregory Christie (Illustrator)
Mondays, there were hogs to slop,
mules to train, and logs to chop.
Slavery was no ways fair.
Six more days to Congo Square.
As slaves relentlessly toiled in an unjust system in 19th century Louisiana, they all counted down the days until Sunday, when at least for half a day they were briefly able to congregate in Congo Square in New Orleans. Here they were free to set up an open market, sing, dance, and play music. They were free to forget their cares, their struggles, and their oppression. This story chronicles slaves’ duties each day, from chopping logs on Mondays to baking bread on Wednesdays to plucking hens on Saturday, and builds to the freedom of Sundays and the special experience of an afternoon spent in Congo Square. This book will have a forward from Freddi Williams Evans (freddievans.com), a historian and Congo Square expert, as well as a glossary of terms with pronunciations and definitions. (Little Bee Books)
Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson, Hudson Talbott (Illustrator)
Soonie’s great-grandma was just seven years old when she was sold to a big plantation without her ma and pa, and with only some fabric and needles to call her own. She pieced together bright patches with names like North Star and Crossroads, patches with secret meanings made into quilts called Show Ways — maps for slaves to follow to freedom. When she grew up and had a little girl, she passed on this knowledge. And generations later, Soonie — who was born free — taught her own daughter how to sew beautiful quilts to be sold at market and how to read.
From slavery to freedom, through segregation, freedom marches and the fight for literacy, the tradition they called Show Way has been passed down by the women in Jacqueline Woodson’s family as a way to remember the past and celebrate the possibilities of the future. Beautifully rendered in Hudson Talbott’s luminous art, this moving, lyrical account pays tribute to women whose strength and knowledge illuminate their daughters’ lives. (Penguin Young Readers Group)
Chains (Seeds of America Trilogy Series #1) by Laurie Halse Anderson
If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?
As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
Jefferson’s Sons: A Founding Father’s Secret Children by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
This story of Thomas Jefferson’s children by one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, tells a darker piece of America’s history from an often unseen perspective-that of three of Jefferson’s slaves-including two of his own children. As each child grows up and tells his story, the contradiction between slavery and freedom becomes starker, calliing into question the real meaning of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This poignant story sheds light on what life was like as one of Jefferson’s invisible offspring. (Penguin Young Readers Group)