Research shows that only 8 to 9 percent of class time, equivalent to 1-2 lessons, is currently dedicated to Black history. Juneteenth being established as a federal holiday is an opportunity for educators to make a shift and expand upon the history, cultures, and experiences discussed in the classroom.
Celebrated annually on June 19, Juneteenth marks the date some of the last enslaved people in the Confederacy became free. While mainstream awareness of Juneteenth is somewhat recent, it is a long-celebrated event that should be a core part of history–social studies and other courses.
Here are three tips for incorporating discussion of Juneteenth throughout the school year.
1: Be proactive, and don’t limit yourself to June 19
While the official holiday takes place June 19, discussion of Juneteenth doesn’t need to be limited to a single day. Instead, educators can use the topic throughout the school year, weaving it into related lesson plans–such as discussion of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Students’ racial, ethnic and cultural identities are already an important part of what’s celebrated and shared in the classroom. Including Juneteenth in those discussions is necessary for truly recognizing and honoring every student’s heritage.
Discussing Juneteenth in tandem with other freedom holidays, like July Fourth, is another way to expand it beyond a single day.
2: Use a variety of resources to teach about Juneteenth
When including Juneteenth in class, teachers should rely on credible–yet diverse–resources. Many content providers are expanding their resources to help educators teach the topic in the classroom.
Here are some other Juneteenth resources to consider:
- Virtual Juneteenth Exhibit
- Teaching Juneteenth
- Juneteenth Portal
- 17 Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth
- Black History Month Teaching Resources
Here are a few of the many ways Juneteenth can be studied in the classroom:
- Students can learn how Juneteenth is celebrated across the United States.
- Students can read about the people at the center of Juneteenth and those who paved the way to make it a national holiday, including General Gordon Granger, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, and activist Opal Lee.
- Students can contextualize the primary source document “Emancipation Proclamation.”
3: Expand beyond history class
While Juneteenth is a natural fit for discussion in history and social studies, the holiday can also be discussed in other classes. Connecting student learning across subjects is not a new idea in education–teachers can teach about Juneteenth and carry it over to other classes in a variety of ways.
For example, teachers can have their students read and analyze books that give historical narratives around Juneteenth, such as “Juneteenth” by Ralph Ellison. Students can also learn about Juneteenth through music, art, and food.
I’m confident that educators will find unique ways to celebrate their students and look forward to seeing how they elevate Juneteenth in the 2021-22 school year and beyond.
Everyone can benefit from learning about Juneteenth
Establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday is an opportunity for educators to proactively weave it throughout instruction. Juneteenth is more than a holiday, it is knowledge. When we make the effort to learn more about one another, everyone benefits.
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