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Juneteenth Celebration Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Do you like celebrations? Do you like the freedoms granted to you as an American? Well, combine those and you get Juneteenth. Come and learn about what Juneteenth is, its history and how you can join the party.

What is Juneteenth?

Holidays are a time when we get together to celebrate something special. On Thanksgiving, we eat a delicious feast and take time to remember what we are thankful for. On Valentine's Day, we go out of our way to do something nice for the people we love.

What do we do for Juneteenth? If you haven't heard of Juneteenth, don't worry. It's not a holiday that is celebrated nationwide like the other holidays mentioned. With that being said, it has a rich history and a special meaning.

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19th. Get it? June + Nineteenth = Juneteenth. Creative, huh? Specifically, this holiday marks the anniversary of when Texas learned that President Lincoln had declared slavery illegal. Texas was the final state to hear the news, so June 19, 1865, was when the last slaves were freed. Americans, specifically African-Americans, celebrate this freedom on Juneteenth.

A group of women celebrating Juneteenth
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Slow and Steady Does Not Always Win the Race

Wait a second here ... June 19, 1865? President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was delivered way before then! The Emancipation Proclamation was the official document stating that all slaves in the United States must be freed. It was delivered on January 1, 1863. That is more than two years before Texas heard the news! Why is this?

Well, think about it. Today, you can hear the news almost instantaneously with the technologies of the Internet, cell phones and television. Back then, they did not have these things, so they had to physically wait for either someone to come and tell them about the news or for a letter in the mail. Remember this the next time you complain about slow Wi-Fi. Being a slave would be terrible enough, but imagine being a slave and not knowing that it was actually illegal! Crazy.

No one is 100% sure why it took so long. There are several theories, including Texas knowing the news but not wanting to follow the rules, the messenger getting murdered on the way to deliver the news, and so on. However, regardless of how it happened, the important thing to know here is that a man named Major General Gordon Granger was the one to finally bring slavery in Texas to an end.

Granger, along with Union soldiers (the Union is the side that won the Civil War), arrived on horseback to Galveston, Texas. It was here that Granger delivered General Order 3, which was basically redelivering the message of the Emancipation Proclamation specifically to the people of Texas.

General Order 3
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