Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, celebrates the day when two-and-a-half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the enslaved Americans in Texas finally learned of its existence, and therefore their freedom. It’s a day that celebrates delayed liberation; a reminder that none of us our free until we’re all free.
Just as the Emancipation Proclamation meant nothing to the people who its message hadn’t yet spread to, Juneteenth reminds us that it takes work and time for the joy of liberation to reach everyone. In our current conversations about abolition, our elders remind us that the key to this work is consistency. The objective of this syllabus is to help you and your families begin that work.
The work however, is also joyful! A recent tweet that lit my heart on fire said to party on Juneteenth and protest on July 4th. The enslaved people had long anticipated their emancipation, and when news of it arrived, they were joyful and celebrated together.
Party on Juneteenth
Protest on the July 4th
— Tre’bor Jones (@Treborjon) June 9, 2020
This syllabus provides you with materials to learn about the holiday’s history, choose best how to honor it in your life, and most importantly helps you to celebrate!
History of Juneteenth
What are we celebrating? What role does the state of Texas play? Why isn’t Juneteenth a federal holiday? Use these resources to learn about Juneteenth as an historical event and celebration.
- “Juneteenth, Our Other Independence Day”, by Kenneth C. Davis for Smithsonian Magazine
- “Why celebrating Juneteenth is more important now than ever” by P. R. Lockhart for Vox
- “What is Juneteenth” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for PBS
- “So You Want to Learn about Junetenth?” by Derrick Bryson Taylor for The New York Times
- “Juneteenth Fact Sheet” by the Congressional Research Service
- “Celebrating Juneteenth” by Erin Allen for the Library of Congress Blog
- “Juneteenth” by Teresa Palomo Acosta for Texas State Historical Association
- “The Story of Juneteenth” by Lynn Brown for JSTOR Daily
Juneteenth is Queer as Hell
The message of freedom that is centered in Juneteenth has inspired various queer activists, artists, and thinkers to create their own work around the theme. Engage in a few of these for some queer Juneteenth learning.
- Combahee Throughline Immersion
- Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis (2003)
- “Building an Abolitionist Trans and Queer Movement with Everything We’ve Got” by Morgan Bassichis, Alexander Lee, Dean Spade from Captive Genders (2011).
- Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity by C. Riley Snorton (2017). (Read the Autostraddle review here!)
Juneteenth is a family celebration. I encourage caregivers to engage in the material to find something that’ll work for your unit, and I encourage teens to read up on Juneteenth on their own and initiate your own celebrations within your families!
For caregivers and kiddos
- First Name Podcast, “What is Juneteenth?“
- “Juneteenth” from PBS Kids
- “Kids Books to Celebrate Juneteenth” from NYPL
- Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper read aloud on YouTube
- “Happy Juneteenth” from Teaching Tolerance
- “Teaching Kids About Juneteenth” from Wherever Family
For youth and teens (13-20)
- “What Is Juneteenth, How Is It Celebrated, and Why Does It Matter” by Jameelah Nasheed for Teen Vogue
- Come Juneteenth by Ann Rinaldi
- Yo, This is Racist, “Juneteenth Special”
- “The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth” by the National Museum for African American History
Listen and Learn
These podcasts are all short introductions to Juneteenth from a variety of viewpoints, all accessible via your favorite podcast app.
- Today, Explained, “Happy Juneteenth!”
- The People Class Podcast, “The Quad: Juneteenth”
- The Peas in the Podcast, “Merry Juneteenth!”
Watch and Learn
Documentary and scripted films have all tackled the implications of Juneteenth.
- History of Juneteenth Documentary from Allen Library.
- Miss Juneteenth (2020), directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples
- 13th (2016), by Ava Duvernay
Read about Liberation
If you’re craving even more reading, these books will aid you in your Juneteenth journey of learning, action, and celebration.
- Women, Race, and Class by Dr. Angela Y. Davis.
- Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison
- Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery by Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer
Part of the work of Juneteenth is celebrating the joy that freedom offers us. Whether through music, dance, film, engaging in these celebrations will offer you a chance to partake in the joyous project of liberation.
- Participate in a virtual weekend of action put on by the Movement for Black Lives.
- Enjoy the new film Miss Juneteenth, available on Apple TV.
- Attend the virtual Juneteenth Music Festival.
- Take action with M4BL and their SixNineteen weekend of action.