Freedom and Celebration: Your Juneteenth Lesson Plan
The Classroom

Freedom and Celebration: Your Juneteenth Lesson Plan

Newsela Editorial
Jun 5, 2024

On June 19, 1865, about two years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas to let the last of those in former Confederate states know that the Civil War was over. By executive decree, more than 250,000 Black people were now free. Though Black Americans have celebrated this holiday for years, our country didn’t recognize it nationally until 2021. We have all the resources you need to create a Juneteenth lesson plan to teach your students all about our newest federal holiday:

Juneteenth lesson plans for the social studies classroom

Teach students about the history and significance of Juneteenth with text sets from Newsela Social Studies:

Commemorating Juneteenth

How much do your students know about Juneteenth and the events leading up to this significant holiday? Build background knowledge on the topic and answer your students' questions with resources like:

  • An explainer article about how and why Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021.

  • An article discussing the upcoming National Juneteenth Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, its plans to preserve history, and ways to educate people on the history of the holiday and the fight for freedom.

  • An article that highlights the “Black History, Our History” comic series by artist Tayo Fatunla, which covers topics from significant Black holidays, like Juneteenth, to trailblazers and historic events in the fight for racial equality.

Teach students about emancipation

When Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it was supposed to free any enslaved person in the United States. However, because part of the country seceded and became the Confederate States of America, it took another two years, and an end to the Civil War, for this proclamation to apply to southern states. Use this text set to teach students more about emancipation and evaluate the agency of free Black people advocating on behalf of enslaved Black people with resources like:

  • The full text of abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ speech “Men of Color, To Arms!” which encouraged Black men to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War and fight for their freedom.

  • The full text of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which declared “all persons held as slaves in certain states to be free.”

  • A ready-to-go assessment activity for the Emancipation Proclamation to help you check students’ understanding of the speech and its significance.

Juneteenth lesson plans for the ELA classroom

Put students' literacy skills, like interpreting multimedia and finding key details, to the test using Juneteenth content from Newsela ELA:

Analyze multimedia about Juneteenth

Help students build background knowledge on Juneteenth and practice literacy skills by analyzing multimedia content and completing activities like:

  • An article that explains the history of Juneteenth and how Texas recognized the significant date as a holiday over 40 years before it became a national holiday.

  • An interactive video that explains the events that led to Juneteenth, such as abolitionist efforts and the American Civil War.

  • Customize the Comparing Media graphic organizer using Newsela’s integration with Formative to help students spot similarities and differences in the content they explore.

Famous speeches: Frederick Douglass; “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

Have students dig deep into primary sources by reviewing the text of Frederick Douglass’ speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” Have students explore how he makes his argument about fighting for freedom with the following lesson:

Debate and discussion: Does the U.S. Owe Reparations to Descendants of the Enslaved?

Hold a respectful debate in your classroom and have students decide if they think the U.S. government should pay reparations to descendants of the enslaved. To help them form opinions and make an argument, have them explore resources like:

  • A pro/con article looking at Ta-Nehisi Coates and Coleman Hughes’ testimony at the United States House Judiciary subcommittee on a bill that proposed establishing a commission for reparations.

  • An article about the first proposed reparations for slavery from Major General William Tecumseh Sherman in 1865.

  • An opinion article that looks at the sociological theory of systematic racism, which explains how racism is embedded in the foundation of the United States and how it continues to appear in all aspects of society.

Go further with your Juneteenth lesson plans

We hope these resources make it easier for you to engage, reflect, and start thoughtful conversations with your students about the significance of Juneteenth in United States history. There are so many more important holidays and diverse perspectives you can explore with Newsela’s knowledge and skill-building products.

Want to see for yourself? Newsela Lite users can sign up for a free trial of our premium products and get access to our suite of 15,000+ relevant texts, engaging activities, and formative assessments!

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