On June 19, 1865, enslaved African Americans in Galveston, TX were told that they were free after Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered in Appomattox, VA. This announcement made the Emancipation Proclamation effective after it was issued two years earlier by former President Abraham Lincoln.
Although Juneteenth’s history is not very well known, it is one of the longest running African American holidays, with celebrations beginning in 1872 when Black businessmen in Houston, TX purchased several acres of land to hold Juneteenth events and celebrations.
With the rise of protests since the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the desire for acknowledging Juneteenth as a holiday increased, resulting in Congress pushing its legislation. On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the bill into law making Juneteenth the 11th recognized federal holiday in the United States.
How Juneteenth is Celebrated
Juneteenth celebrations consist of social gatherings with food and music. Some individuals attend church worship services or simply take the day off work to rest and acknowledge the unpaid labor of their ancestors. Big cities will have parades and festivals that gather communities together.
How to Teach Students about Juneteenth
Unfortunately, Juneteenth is often not taught in schools in the United States, and this has been compounded by the recent laws on banned books in Indiana and refusal to teach Black history in other states. Slavery is briefly mentioned in most history courses, but the narrative tends to present master stories and deem slavery as a necessary and pleasurable part of history. It is essential to teach students about the truth of slavery to acknowledge institutional oppression and make changes going forward. Despite Juneteenth being a summer holiday that does not align with the academic calendar, it can be taught and discussed during course sessions. Below are a few ways to acknowledge Juneteenth and educate your students on its significance:
- Familiarize yourself with Juneteenth and the history of slavery
- Dig into some literature that discusses Black history and the relevance of Juneteenth. IU has a library guide that informs individuals about Juneteenth.
- Incorporate work from Black authors and scholars into your course curriculum
- Assign readings from Black authors and encourage students to do further reading on topics related to Black and other minoritized communities.
- Advertise Juneteenth events to your students
- Send students an email or post events on the course Canvas page.
- Remind students of Juneteenth during Black History Month in February
- It’s never too early to remind students about history! Be sure to acknowledge Juneteenth during the academic year.
- Think of ways to be an ally for Black students and take action
- Be supportive of students and emphasize with them when they are experiencing racism and/or discrimination. Show them that you care, and you find them valuable.
Juneteenth Events at IU and the City of Bloomington
- City of Bloomington Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday, June 17th from 2:00pm to 7:00pm at Switchyard Park
- Juneteenth Celebration on Monday, June 19th from 2:00pm to 5:00pm at the Neal-Marshall Courtyard
Please visit this link for more Juneteenth events at other IU campuses: https://diversity.iu.edu/news-events/events/index.html
To learn more about Juneteenth or how to promote equity in your classroom, book a consultation with one of our staff: http://citl.indiana.edu/consultations/individual
McDonald, J. (2022). Why schools haven’t taught about Juneteenth, and why they should. UCLA Newsroom . https://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/why-we-should-teach-about-juneteenth-eddie-cole
Nix, E. (2023). What is Juneteenth?. History.com. https://www.history.com/news/what-is-juneteenth
Taylor, D. B. (2020). Juneteenth: The history of a holiday. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/article/juneteenth-day-celebration.html