President Biden signed legislation on June 19, 2021, making Juneteenth a federal holiday. The measure was passed in the House and Senate with bipartisan support. As educators, we are entrusted with the profound responsibility of teaching history in all its complexities, including moments that reflect the triumphs and challenges of our nation’s journey toward equality and justice. One such pivotal moment in American history is Juneteenth. This celebration holds deep significance for understanding the struggles and achievements of African Americans in their quest for freedom and equality.

Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of slavery following President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued two and a half years earlier. This delayed announcement came about because Texas was one of the last Confederate states where slavery continued to persist even after the Civil War had ended.

Juneteenth symbolizes the liberation of African Americans from the bonds of slavery and the beginning of their journey toward full citizenship and civil rights. It marks a critical milestone in American history, illustrating both the enduring struggle for freedom and the resilience of African American communities in the face of adversity.

For educators, Juneteenth offers a valuable opportunity to engage students in meaningful discussions about the legacy of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the ongoing struggle for civil rights. By exploring these topics, students gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of American history and the enduring impact of slavery on our society today.

Observing the Juneteenth holiday and integrating it into our curriculum allows us to celebrate African Americans’ achievements and contributions while addressing the historical injustices they have faced.

Juneteenth serves as a reminder of the ongoing pursuit of equality and justice for all Americans. By recognizing and celebrating Juneteenth, we all affirm their commitment to diversity, inclusion, and the pursuit of a more just society.

For additional information regarding Juneteenth, please see the following resources:

Read: Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth by Alice Faye Duncan, 2022 

Watch: Henry Louis Gates Jr. on the significance and history of Juneteenth, CBS News, 2023 

Listen: Juneteenth: The Untold Story of One Man’s Love, Beyond Black History Month, 2022