Getting kids to learn about historical facts can be challenging. Even for children who are avid readers, non-fiction books about people, places, things, or events are usually a sure way to curtail any enthusiasm they have for reading. However, historical fiction is a great compromise that both inserts cultural lessons into your child’s reading while also maintaining keeping them excited about fun fiction stories.
As we head into Juneteenth celebrations we thought it appropriate to share some background on the holiday as well as provide some book suggestions for your kid’s summer reading list. Each book was selected with specific age groups in mind:
- Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper — Ages: 0-9
- The Story of Juneteenth by Steve Otfinoski — Ages: 9-12
- Come Juneteenth by Ann Ronaldi — Ages: 12+
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
History of Juneteenth
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still, another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which or neither of these versions could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question. Whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.
Juneteenth In Modern Times
Today, Juneteenth is enjoying a phenomenal growth rate within communities and organizations throughout the country. Institutions such as the Smithsonian, the Henry Ford Museum and others have begun sponsoring Juneteenth-centered activities. In recent years, a number of local and national Juneteenth organizations have arisen to take their place alongside older organizations – all with the mission to promote and cultivate knowledge and appreciation of African-American history and culture.
Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom and achievement while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all of the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing.