Juneteenth

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These Children’s Books About Juneteenth Are A Must For Families

Because school curriculums don’t tell the full truth about American history.

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Juneteenth represents June 19, 1865, a day celebrated in the Black community to acknowledge when the last of those enslaved in the United States (in Galveston, Texas) were released as free American citizens. It’s also known as Freedom Day, and because Black people were still being bought and sold during the birth of America’s “Independence Day,” Juneteenth is our true Fourth of July.

In school, we learn about President Lincoln signing the emancipation proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring all who were enslaved to be freed. But it would take more than two and a half years for enslavers in Galveston, Texas to comply.

“With all the fuss around Critical Race Theory, nobody is really discussing the fact that history has never been properly taught in schools and much of Black history is purposely withheld or whitewashed, which is why Juneteenth wasn't on many people's radar until Summer 2020. That includes many Black people,” Yolanda Williams, founder of Parenting Decolonized, tells Romper.

Unfortunately, my history teachers also failed to educate me about Juneteenth. And, if it isn’t passed down in Black families, it’s usually forgotten. But our kids should know!

“Celebrating Juneteenth with your children honors the enslaved whose shoulders we stand on. It honors their lives and their never-ending hope that one day we might all be free. Children need to understand this history, and we need to discuss it with them without shame and with great care, allowing them to ask questions and celebrate the day slavery ended in this country," Williams says.

And thankfully, there are many children’s books that fill the gap left in curriculums and help with this conversation. These authors explain Juneteenth in a way for children to understand historical facts and the reason Black people proudly create festivities to observe the day emancipation was realized for all those enslaved.

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1

A book about the origin of Juneteenth

The first Juneteenth celebration was called ‘The Day of Jubilee.’ This recently released book by Alliah L. Agostini, The Juneteenth Story, details the events surrounding how this day came to be. One reader reviewed this book as “honest, sensitive, and a perfect balance between fact and feeling.” Another says, “There is much sadness in the history of slavery, but the celebration of Juneteenth — and the depictions of celebration in the amazing illustrations — brought a smile to my face.” Agostini notes that she writes to spread joy because she knows how important it is for young readers to finally see themselves reflected on the page.

2

A book about the history of Juneteenth

The best part about Kimberly Kendall-Drucker’s book, Holly Celebrates Juneteenth, is that before she forges into the story of how the enslavement of Black people began, she starts at the actual beginning. She tells of our heritage and the native customs shared on the rich land we inhabited: “Once a bright and beautiful people lived in a land they called their own. They shared customs and religion, and they ruled themselves alone.” Through rhyme and brilliantly illustrated pictures, Kendall-Drucker recaps the history of how Juneteenth was birthed and why we celebrate. A review says, “Learning the history, including how it all started, has made my kids eager to celebrate their heritage and participate in Juneteenth.”

3

An educational Juneteenth activity and coloring book

Books come in many forms, and this Juneteeth Activity Coloring Book by Black indie author, Maurice Draine not only allows your children to learn but gives them a fun activity to accompany this important historical event. They will understand why we celebrate and be able to make the images their own. In the book, which is perfect for children ages 4-8 years old, your kids can color Juneteeth celebration events, children playing, fashions associated with the holiday and the joy surrounding it. It’s noted as being specifically designed for tiny hands, featuring wide pictures to help build fine motor skills.

4

A book about a child celebrating Juneteenth

Mazie has such pure joy at being able to celebrate Juneteenth. Kids get to share in her excitement at honoring this day and feel just as happy with this sweet picture book Juneteenth for Mazie.

5

A book about the story of Juneteenth

Slavery lasted for hundreds of years in the US. This story, Juneteenth, lets kids reflect on what it meant in Texas when the last slaves found out they were free.

6

A book about an enslaved Texas family

While other books are a look back, Come Juneteenth allows kids to step inside the four walls of an enslaved family as they live out Juneteenth. They live on a Texas plantation during the civil war and are a part of the last to be freed.

7

An interactive history book

OK, I want this! This interactive book, The History of Juneteenth, is full of adventures that allow your kids to experience a glimpse of what life was like for Black people after the emancipation proclamation was signed — experiences like finding family members that had been sold, and choosing jobs.

8

A book about a girl’s experience

Can you imagine what that first Juneteenth was like? Your kids get to see it through the eyes of a little girl and also learn about other important historical dates surrounding that time in All Different Now.

9

A celebration of freedom day

This story, Juneteenth Jamboree, is about a girl named Cassie who moves to Texas and doesn’t instantly fall in love with it. But when her family surprises her with the traditional Juneteenth celebration in Texas, it starts to mean more to her to live there than she could have hoped.

10

A big activity book

Anything with the word “ultimate” in it sounds full of awesome, and this Juneteenth, The Ultimate Juneteenth Activity Book For Kids, is a book that lives up to that expectation. The 28-page book is packed with historical facts and figures of speech, and lets kids create poetry, sketches, design a flag, and a whole lot more.

11

Juneteenth sketchbook

If your child likes to draw, this sketchbook, Young, Black and Free-ish Since 1865, is the perfect place for them to create empowering images of Black culture, freedom, and fun Juneteenth celebration pictures.

12

Kids Juneteenth activity book

This activity book, Freedom Day, gives your kids fun projects while they are learning the history of Juneteenth. They can color, answer questions, learn new words, and more. And there are 42 pages for them to enjoy!

13

A Juneteenth true story

Opal Lee and What it Means to be Free is the true story of a little girl who loved celebrating Juneteenth with her family and the freedom it stood for. But when angry racists burned down her home, she decided to spend the rest of her life fighting for true freedom and equality. This is a great example of why a Juneteenth slogan is “Free-ish since 1865.”

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Juneteenth gift

My kids like to write down all the facts they learn. They call them “Fact Books.” This notebook, Black History Didn’t Start With Slavery, is a great way to encourage your child to note all the new things they learn about the history of slavery in America and even their thoughts and feelings about it.

15

A freedom book

Author Kelisa Wing is an educator and advocate. In her book, Juneteenth, she encourages children to learn all the facts about history and slavery in an age-appropriate way.

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A sweet children’s story

If you are looking for a way to explain slavery and Juneteenth in a way that your kids can grasp, this book, Juneteenth: A Children’s Story, is a great choice. It’s made to be easily understandable!

17

A Juneteenth picture book

If you have a new reader, this picture book, Juneteenth, has easy sentences, and is a good way to introduce them to learning about Juneteenth. The images are of real-life people celebrating this holiday, making it feel even more relatable and understandable.

These books contain the joy, trials, triumphs and truthful experiences surrounding Juneteenth and we can’t forget to remember where we’ve come from. Although most of it is hard to confront, our children can better face the future by understanding the importance of what happened on this day in history.

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