As the school year comes to a close, it’s important to take time to recognize Juneteenth — a nationally celebrated holiday that commemorates African American freedom on June 19, 1865. The holiday also serves as a significant reminder that the work surrounding equity and inclusion is a continual effort to lift up diverse voices.
We’ve gathered a collection of lessons, books, and activities that support African American voices that you can share with all students to inspire them to learn more about our nation’s other Independence Day, also known as “Freedom Day.” Through stories, shared experiences, and looking deeper into history, students can better connect moments in time to foster a future where equity and inclusion are possible.
Lessons & Activities
Smarter Balanced Tools for Teachers: Language Use—Narrative of Frederick Douglass
Grade: High School – English Language Arts
Claim 1: Reading – Target 14: Language Use
Through reading excerpts from the first five chapters in “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” the student will identify the author’s word choice (diction) and relate it to Douglass’s tone, and the mood that is being established in the autobiography. (Login required to see full resource)
Colorfulpages.org: Juneteenth Worksheet
This worksheet is a great tool to use after reading a passage or watching a video about Juneteenth and helps students retain information by asking two questions: what is Juneteenth and why do we celebrate it?
PBS Learning Media: Should Juneteenth Be a National Holiday?
Grades: 6-8, 9-12
In this lesson, students watch a 30-minute Q&A video with Professor Mark Anthony Neal, about the origin and meaning of Juneteenth, then they read the summary and answer discussion questions.
If you would like to buy any of the books below, consider purchasing from a black-owned bookstore as an additional way to support, and lift, black-owned businesses.
Juneteenth (Beautiful Me)
Ages: 4-10 years old
This picture storybook explains the history and importance of the Juneteenth Holiday.
All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom
Ages: 5-9 years old
This picture storybook covers the first day of Juneteenth when African Americans became free.
Come Juneteenth (Great Episodes)
Ages: 10 years old and up
This novel is a resource for teens and young adults who want to get a better idea of the events that lead to the creation of Juneteenth.
Smarter Balanced is proudly part of University of California Santa Cruz and embraces UCSC’s commitment to cultivating an inclusive climate. Furthermore, a dedication to equity is core to our mission at Smarter Balanced—we develop instructional resources and assessment tools that support educators and their work with diverse learners.
Visit our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion page to learn more.