Celebrating Juneteenth

The importance of the emancipation of 4 million people enslaved in the United States is not marked by a federal holiday. The celebration of the last enslaved people receiving word of their freedom is called Juneteenth. Juneteenth is celebrated every year on June 19 and Milwaukee’s Northcott Neighborhood House is host to one of the oldest celebrations in the United States. Learn more about Juneteenth along with lesson plans and activities below.

Watch for a Virtual Juneteenth Day Celebration 2020 on WTMJ 4.

What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?

Watch the video.

“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” is a speech by abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Douglass, who himself escaped enslavement years before, gave the speech on July 5, 1852 at an Independence Day celebration in Rochester, New York.

What is Juneteenth? 

by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” —General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865

When Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued the above order, he had no idea that, in establishing the Union Army’s authority over the people of Texas, he was also establishing the basis for a holiday, “Juneteenth” (“June” plus “nineteenth”), today the most popular annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States. After all, by the time Granger assumed command of the Department of Texas, the Confederate capital in Richmond had fallen; the “Executive” to whom he referred, President Lincoln, was dead; and the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery was well on its way to ratification. Read the rest.

Juneteenth Jamboreevideo series


Teaching Juneteenth: Understanding Emancipation

Teaching Tolerance

Juneteenth is more than an observance of freedom. It’s also a time to share the experiences of those who fought—literally and figuratively—to seek true freedom for future generations. It’s important that we don’t whitewash this history. 

A common mistake among those who teach the history of American slavery is to center the U.S. government’s role in granting freedom while also placing the onus to navigate through a racist society solely on the formerly enslaved.

Perhaps many center Lincoln in this history because we tend to think of the Emancipation Proclamation, instead of the 13th Amendment, as ending slavery. Our 2018 Teaching Hard History report found that 59 percent of high school students couldn’t correctly identify the latter as the legal end to slavery in the United States. 

But it’s important for students to know that enslaved people didn’t willfully accept enslavement or wait for others to free them. They resisted often and consistently. While rare, violent rebellions did occur. Some people successfully escaped enslavement. And everyday acts of resistance, such as breaking tools or pretending to be ill were other ways enslaved people asserted their humanity. Read the rest.

 Lesson Plans

§  Try a Juneteenth reading comprehension worksheet.

§  Read about Juneteenth and compare it with other holidays.

§  Check out Enchanted Learning’s Juneteenth pages.

§  Send a Juneteenth ecard.

§  Read Juneteenth poetry, and try writing your own.

§  Try a simple PDF worksheet on The Emancipation Proclamation. This worksheet asks students to paraphrase passages from the document, so it’s a good practice for paraphrasing, too.

§  Read Juneteenth, a simple but effective picture book about the celebration.

  • Juneteenth Jamboree and lesson plan from Lee & Low Books: Multicultural Children’s Book Publisher
  • Urban Intellectuals, Black History flashcards, posters, books

 Milwaukee and Juneteenth

“June 19 is still not recognized as a federal holiday, even though it has been celebrated for 154 years. The Civil War has no day of commemoration, like when the original 13 colonies declared independence. Yet by many criteria, Juneteenth represents a far greater struggle for freedom than July 4.

The tradition is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Organized by the Northcott Neighborhood House, Milwaukee hosts one of the oldest Juneteenth Day Festivals in the country, and its popularity in recent years has grown. The local event kicked off with a mile and a half parade that began on 19th Street and Atkinson Avenue and proceed down Dr. Martin Luther King Drive to end at Burleigh Street.”

Read more at the Milwaukee Independent

Milwaukee Juneteenth in the News

 Milwaukee’s 48th Annual Juneteenth Day Festival Celebrates Emancipation, Community, and Ancestors

‘A day of celebration and of jubilation’: What Juneteenth Day means to Milwaukee

Juneteenth Pumps Freedom into The Veins of Milwaukee’s Black Community

Contact Ingrid Walker-Henry at walker-henryi@mtea.org