How to Celebrate and Teach Your Child About Juneteenth

With Juneteenth coming up this weekend, many are thinking about whether (and how) they will celebrate the day.

For some Black families, Juneteenth is spent together celebrating the official day that ended slavery in the United States by enjoying good food and music. For other families, it’s a day of quiet reflection and learning more about their history and culture, and where America is at in this day in age.

But, for transracial adoptive families, what does Juneteenth look like?

A great place to start is by learning what Juneteenth actually is.

What is Juneteenth?

It wasn’t until the end of January 1865 that Congress signed the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. Although President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years earlier, there were thousands of slaves in Texas who didn’t know they were free.

That day was June 19, which is where “Juneteenth” comes from. In 1979, Texas became the first state to celebrate Juneteenth. Since then, 47 states total celebrate the day as a state holiday, and Congress passed legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday in the Summer of 2021.

Whereas days like Christmas, Halloween, and Independence Day come with a variety of ways to celebrate, Juneteenth is slowly but surely making itself known. For transracial adoptive families, especially new families, this may be the first time you’ve thought about recognizing Juneteenth within your family.

When it comes to celebrating a day that’s wrapped up in such a difficult time in American history, knowing good ways of acknowledging and celebrating Juneteenth may be difficult. However, we don’t believe you should shy away from it.

Instead, we are here to help give you different ideas of how to celebrate Juneteenth and help you, your family, and your child learn.

Ways You Can Celebrate Juneteenth With Your Child

There are so many ways of how to celebrate Juneteenth. From reading books and watching movies to attending a Juneteenth party and cooking some traditional African American food, there are plenty of opportunities for you to celebrate as a transracial family.

Read Books and Poems by African American Authors

  • “All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom” by Angela Johnson
  • “Freedom’s Gifts” by Valerie Wesley
  • “Juneteenth for Mazie” by Floyd Cooper
  • “Juneteenth Jamboree” by Carole Boston Weatherford
  • “Juneteenth” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
  • “Juneteenth: Freedom Day” by Muriel Miller Branch
  • “Let’s Celebrate Emancipation Day & Juneteenth” by Barbara deRubertis
  • “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou
  • “I, Too, Sing America” by Langston Hughes
  • “Primer For Blacks” by Gwendolyn Brooks
  • “won’t you celebrate with me” by Lucille Clifton
  • “Rosa Parks” by Nikki Giovanni
  • “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou
  • “Lineage” by Margaret Walker
  • “Harriet Beecher Stowe” by Paul Laurence Dunbar
  • “Ballad of Birmingham” by Dudley Randall
  • “C.R.E.A.M.” by Danez Smith

Watch Movies/TV Shows With African American Lead Characters

  • “Black-ish,” on ABC
  • “Insecure,” on HBO
  • “Raven’s House,” on Disney Channel
  • “Craig of the Creek,” on Cartoon Network
  • “Akeelah and the Bee,” on Pluto TV
  • “Poetic Justice,” on Prime Video and Apple TV
  • “Miss Juneteenth,” on Prime Video
  • “Hidden Figures,” on Disney+
  • “Black Panther,” on Disney+
  • “Dream Girls,” on Prime Video
  • “The Butler,” on Hulu and Netflix
  • “The Help,” on HBO Max
  • “Remember the Titans,” on Disney+
  • “Soul,” on Disney+

Cook Traditional African American Foods

Food can be central to heritage. Cooking shapes cultures, creates family traditions and is often the center of celebrations.

Traditional African American foods can be a great way to celebrate your child’s heritage. As Juneteenth is often publicly celebrated with food festivals, many of the foods you will find at these events are “red foods,” as they symbolize the resistance and inspiration of former slaves.

A few great dishes to serve up on Juneteenth are:

  • Fried chicken
  • Barbecued meat
  • Collard greens
  • Pecan pie
  • Grits
  • Okra
  • Cornbread
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Hotdogs
  • Barbecue
  • Strawberries
  • Red velvet cake

Visit African American Historical Places

Maybe celebrating Juneteenth for your family involves planning a trip to visit areas that honor the history of Black people in America.

Some popular places to consider include:

  • American Jazz Museum; Missouri
  • Lincoln Park and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial; Washington, D.C.
  • Underground Railroad Heritage Trail; New York
  • Cane River Creole National Historical Park and Heritage Area; Louisiana
  • National Civil Rights Museum and Fort Pillow State Park; Tennessee
  • Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Alabama

Why Celebrating Juneteenth Should Be Intentional

For transracial adoptive families, celebrating Juneteenth should be more than learning about history; it’s also about culture, helping a child learn who they are, where they come from, and knowing that others face similar challenges in life.

Children want and need affirmation, to be acknowledged, to be seen. It’s one thing to get those responses from your family and those you live with, even if you’re a family of different races. But, when it comes to your child being out in the world – at school, on the playground, walking with you through the grocery store – it’s a completely different experience and story. To help instill a true sense of self in a child, history and culture need to be examined, explored, remembered, acknowledged, and marked – and that’s why celebrating Juneteenth as a transracial family can help.