BKLYN Kids Presents: Juneteenth


Juneteenth Flag (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Juneteenth: A Celebration of Liberation

Juneteenth (combining "June" and "Nineteenth"), also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a holiday celebrated every year on June 19th, commemorating the emancipation of the last remaining slaves in the United States.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1st 1863, it did not mean that all slaves were instantly free. It took months, even years for the news to travel across states during the Civil War. Finally after two and a half years, General Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19 1865, to announce and enforce the proclamation, thus releasing approximately 250,000 people who had still been enslaved across Texas. Slavery was officially abolished in December 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

This year marks 155 years of Juneteenth Celebrations. Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., the chair of the National Juneteenth Holiday campaign, shares the mission of the holiday: "to bring all Americans together to celebrate our common bond of freedom through the recognition, observance, education, and historic preservation of Juneteenth in America"

Here is a brief video by PBS Kids explaining the history and traditions of the holiday:


With social distancing, the holiday may look a little different this year, but that won't keep us from celebrating! Here are a few ways to celebrate and commemorate Juneteenth right from home:

Participate in a Virtual Program
  • Virtual Juneteenth Storytime with Bweela Steptoe In partnership with the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, please join us for Virtual Storytime with special guest reader Bweela Steptoe. In honor of Juneteenth, Ms. Steptoe will be reading the Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Award winning book, Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, written by her father, John Steptoe. 

  • Juneteenth: Tammy Hall Virtual Storytelling Tammy Hall has over twenty years storytelling experience. She specializes in telling wonderful folktales from around the world. In honor of Juneteenth, please join us to listen to some of Tammy's favorite stories.

  • Virtual Storytime- Juneteenth Celebration Virtual storytime with books, songs, and tips for your child to acquire early literacy, fine motor, and language developmental skills. During this session the books, songs and rhymes will celebrate Juneteenth Day.

  • Juneteenth: Asante's African Safari Akwesi Asante tells African-American stories and tales, accompanied by music and dance. In honor of Juneteenth, please join us for a special storytelling session.


Read about Juneteenth

Several of the following titles are available to read now as an ebook, while hard copy titles will be reserveable when the library reopens, or can be ordered from your local bookstore.


Enjoy a Traditional Treat

Red foods –a symbol of the ingenuity and resilience of the enslaved– are customary to eat on Juneteenth. Watermelon, strawberries, red soda water, red velvet cake, cherry pie, red beans, barbecue are some of the traditional fare you'll find at a Juneteenth feast, along with other well known soul food favorites like fried chicken, collard greens, and mac & cheese. 

There is also the tea cake, and although not red in hue, it is argued by many to be just as integral in the African American food culture. Tea cakes were made by enslaved Africans and continue to be a comfort food and a special treat during holidays, with family recipes passed down for generations. With their rich and colorful history, tea cakes definitely deserve a consideration on your Juneteenth menu:

What till you have on your Juneteenth table? 


Take a Moment to Reflect

On Juneteenth, we celebrate our capacity to make real the promise of our founding, that thing inside each of us that says America is not yet finished, that compels all of us to fight for justice and equality until this country we love more closely aligns with our highest ideals. –Barack Obama

Continue the conversation: find helpful resources in our Talking about Race post


This blog post reflects the opinions of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Brooklyn Public Library.


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