Discovering Juneteenth: Teaching Our Children about Freedom, Veterans, and Equality - Small Legacies

Discovering Juneteenth: Teaching Our Children about Freedom, Veterans, and Equality

By Kendra Johnson

As moms, we strive to raise compassionate, inclusive, and socially conscious children. But that’s a lot of pressure! In our journey of parenting, it's crucial to explore and embrace cultural celebrations that teach valuable life lessons but how do we actually do that?

My favorite way to start these conversations is by celebrating holidays that celebrate freedom, diversity and cultural celebrations.  One such significant holiday is Juneteenth, a day that symbolizes freedom, equality, and honors the contributions of veterans. So how can we involve our children in the celebrations of this day?

Providing Historical Context

Trying to provide historical context can be a challenge with young children but it’s essential in helping them understand the world around them. The Civil War, a pivotal chapter in American history, challenged the nation's values and tore families apart. Our children should know that African American soldiers fought courageously alongside their white counterparts, striving for freedom and justice.

Despite the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, it took until June 19th, 1865, for the news of freedom to reach enslaved individuals in Texas. This delay highlights the struggles faced by African Americans on their path to liberation.

The Meaning of Juneteenth

Juneteenth holds immense significance for African Americans and for teaching our children about empathy, equality, and gratitude towards our veterans. It represents the day when the last enslaved people in the United States were finally informed of their freedom. June 19th, 1865, stands as a testament to the strength, resilience, and spirit of African Americans throughout history.

This day provides the perfect opportunity to acknowledge the sacrifices and contributions of our veterans, who have fought for the values of freedom and democracy. Many African American soldiers served heroically during the Civil War, not only fighting for their own freedom but also the freedom of others. Their bravery and dedication are deeply intertwined with the significance of Juneteenth.

Juneteenth Celebrations and Traditions

Juneteenth celebrations are filled with joy and togetherness, providing an ideal environment to teach our children about unity and appreciation for diversity. Festivities include vibrant parades, music, and delicious food. Attending local Juneteenth events can expose our children to the richness of African American culture and foster a sense of belonging within a diverse community.

Education and reflection on African American history, including the role of veterans, are also integral to Juneteenth celebrations. Engaging our children in historical reenactments, storytelling sessions, and discussions can help them develop a deeper understanding of the struggles and triumphs that have shaped our nation. The goal here is to create an environment where our children learn to value and respect diverse perspectives and histories.


Celebrating Juneteenth with Children

As parents and grandparents, we have a unique opportunity to involve our children in the Juneteenth celebration. Introducing them to the significance of Juneteenth at a young age instills in them a sense of justice, equality, respect, and gratitude. We can explain the importance of freedom and equality in age-appropriate language, using stories, crafts, and music related to Juneteenth.

Click Here for Crafts to Try to Celebrate Juneteenth With Kids!

There are many wonderful books, resources, and online platforms available that focus on African American history, Juneteenth, and the contributions of veterans. Exploring these materials together can provide our children with valuable insights and spark meaningful conversations. 

Attending local Juneteenth events or organizing family gatherings allows us to create a safe space where our children can understand and appreciate the struggles of the past while celebrating the progress we have made.

Click here for 7 Books for Celebrating Juneteenth!


Celebrating Juneteenth as a White Family

One of the challenges I face when teaching my kids about equality and justice is that I am limited by my own perspective. I am a white, mid-west mom and we live in a predominantly white area. So how can I respectfully celebrate this holiday in a way that is genuine, and doesn't lead to trivializing the holiday? This is a struggle I'm actively working though.  If you have the same concerns as me, I highly recommend you check out this article form NPR about How to Celebrate Juneteenth Respectfully.  



As a mom, I often feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of teaching my boys the values of freedom, equality, and gratitude. Holidays like Juneteenth are the perfect opportunity to start these important conversations. 

“Together, we can raise a generation that appreciates the struggles and triumphs of African Americans, honors the contributions of our veterans, and works towards a future where equality truly prevails.”

Kendra is Director of Digital Resources and curriculum for Small Legacies. A certified elementary educator and parent, Kendra has a passion for teaching through engaging and varied techniques. Her background in theatre, educational technology and curriculum development have fueled her passion for teaching financial literacy creatively.

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