Making Space for Juneteenth: Creative Ways to Celebrate and Educate

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Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th, marks the end of slavery in the United States and commemorates the announcement of freedom to enslaved African Americans in Texas, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. It offers a profound opportunity to delve into the complexities of American history and the ongoing journey toward equality and justice. Integrating Juneteenth into your classroom can give students a deeper understanding of the struggles and triumphs that have shaped the nation. Here are some creative and impactful ways to bring Juneteenth into your classroom this month, helping students to connect with history in meaningful ways and celebrate the spirit of freedom and resilience

Provide Opportunities to Learn about Juneteenth

When celebrating Juneteenth, it’s important first to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of it. You can do this by providing students with a variety of resources and mediums to explore. Below are some books, websites, primary resources, and podcasts to help students gain diverse perspectives and a deeper appreciation of this significant day in American history. 

Book Recommendations:

  • Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper – This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a young girl named Mazie who learns about the history of Juneteenth from her father. It’s an accessible way for younger students to connect with the holiday’s significance through storytelling. The book captures the essence of Juneteenth and its importance in celebrating freedom and resilience.
  • All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson – This book provides a poignant look at the first Juneteenth through the eyes of a young girl. The lyrical text and vibrant illustrations depict the joy and hope that came with freedom. This book is suitable for elementary students and a great starting point for discussing emancipation and its impact.
  • Juneteenth: A Children’s Story by Opal Lee – Written by the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” this book offers an authentic and heartfelt account of the holiday. Opal Lee’s personal connection to Juneteenth makes this an inspiring read for students, emphasizing the importance of remembrance and celebration.


  • National Museum of African American History and Culture – This toolkit offers extensive resources, including articles, videos, and virtual exhibits that delve into the history and significance of Juneteenth. It’s a valuable tool for both educators and students to explore!
  • Juneteenth – This site provides a detailed overview of Juneteenth’s history and significance, including videos and articles.

Primary Resources:


  • Teaching Hard History by Learning for Justice – This podcast offers educators strategies for teaching difficult historical topics, including Juneteenth. It includes interviews with historians and educators, making it a valuable lesson-planning resource.

Incorporating these diverse resources into your curriculum can help students gain a richer, more nuanced understanding of Juneteenth.

Explore Celebrations Across the Country

After providing a sound foundation for the history of Juneteenth, help students explore how Juneteenth is celebrated across the country. Understanding the diverse ways Juneteenth is celebrated can broaden students’ perspectives of the holiday’s significance. Below are some examples and links to organizations and events that highlight these celebrations:

  • Juneteenth Music Festival (Denver, CO) – This annual festival features live music, cultural performances, and educational activities celebrating African American culture and history.
  • Juneteenth NYC (New York, NY) – This event includes a parade, live performances, and community discussions, offering a vibrant celebration of Juneteenth in one of the nation’s largest cities.
  • How Communities Across the Country are Celebrating Juneteenth – From Houston, TX to Milwaukee, WI to Atlanta, GA, learn how eleven cities are celebrating.
  • How to Celebrate Juneteenth in Chicago (Chicago, IL) – Chicago celebrates Juneteenth by exploring and discovering Black history, culture, and traditions.

These examples can inspire students to think creatively about honoring Juneteenth in their communities!

Incorporate Student-Driven Celebration Ideas

Let students take ownership of their learning by developing their own ways to celebrate Juneteenth in the classroom and school community. Below are some potential ideas you can propose, but use this chance to let students take the reigns: 

  • Organize a Juneteenth art exhibition – Feature student-created artwork and poetry that reflects the themes of freedom, resilience, and African American history.
  • Plan a virtual assembly or presentation – Have students share what they’ve learned about Juneteenth, including historical facts, personal reflections, and creative projects.
  • Create a digital timeline or interactive map – Showcase significant events and figures related to Juneteenth using tools like Google Earth or Timeline from ReadWriteThink (reviewed here)

Encourage students to think of other creative ways to celebrate, ensuring their ideas are inclusive and respectful of the day’s significance.

No matter how you celebrate, the key is to engage with and honor Juneteenth’s history and significance. I hope that you consider giving students a chance to take an active role in the celebration. We’d also love for you to share your own ideas and resources in the comments below on how you’ll commemorate this important day in your classrooms!

About the author: Erica De Los Santos

Erica De Los Santos is a Learning Experience Designer with a wide range of experiences in education. From her work in the Peace Corps, to helping teachers as a SEL and Cultural Proficiency and Inclusiveness Specialist, she has developed a deep understanding of pedagogical practices that help teachers to propel all students to academic success. When she’s not working on classroom applications, Erica enjoys running and works to develop inclusive environments for other runners.

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