Juneteenth (June 19) commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War was over and that enslaved people were free. While the day has been celebrated ever since, it was only recognized as a federal holiday in 2021. This resource page includes a video of a conversation with Annette Gordon-Reed about her book “On Juneteenth,” primary sources from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, and a lesson plan “Juneteenth and Emancipation.”
Juneteenth and Emancipation
Over the course of four lessons, students will analyze primary source documents that convey the realities of slavery in the United States, represent various viewpoints on emancipation, and provide context for the federal holiday of Juneteenth, which is the most widely recognized commemoration of slavery’s end. Students will read and assess different types of documents not only to comprehend the language of the text but also to infer meaning and integrate historical context. They will use textual evidence to draw conclusions and present arguments as directed in each lesson, including debating whether Juneteenth is the date that should be celebrated as the end of slavery in the United States.
Juneteenth General Order
In this activity, students will carefully analyze General Order 3 from Major General Gordon Granger which informed the people of Texas that “all slaves are free.” This activity is appropriate as a conclusion to the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction.
District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862
The 150th anniversary of the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862
occurred in 2012. This bill was introduced to Congress to end slavery in the District of
Columbia. Many citizens and members of Congress alike noted that the legality of slavery in
the District of Columbia was inconsistent with the ideals and aspirations of the nation. Congress
approved the bill, and President Abraham Lincoln signed the act.
This activity features the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 and
other primary and secondary sources that tell the story of Congress’s role in this first major step
toward the freeing of enslaved African Americans. While intended for 8th grade students, the
lesson can be adapted for other grade levels.
Abolitionists and the Constitution
Two great abolitionists, Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, once allies, split over the Constitution. Garrison believed it was a pro-slavery document from its inception. Douglass strongly disagreed. This provides writing prompts and a group activity on debating who had the stronger argument.
Harriet Tubman and the End of Slavery
Nicknamed the “Moses of the Her People” for leading runaway slaves to freedom in the North, Harriet Tubman was the most famous member of the Underground Railroad. She became a celebrity in her lifetime and a hero of the Civil War. This lesson provides writing prompts and an activity on leadership.
13th Amendment: Abolition of Slavery
Slavery was embedded into America’s fabric by the time of the ratification of the Constitution. Do you think this affected how long slavery lasted in America and how it ended? Explore the National Constitution Center’s 13th Amendment Learning Module to learn more.
American Slavery Lesson Plans: Teaching Hard History
If you are lesson planning for the school year, or getting ready to celebrate Juneteenth — the June 19 holiday recognizing the abolition of slavery — this Share My Lesson collection has what you need to teach preK-12 students the history of American slavery. This preK-12 lesson and activity curated collection is in response to a Southern Poverty Law Center report, “Teaching Hard History: American Slavery,” that shows that schools are failing to teach American Slavery. This collection of resources features some of our partner and users’ best material to ensure schools and teachers have the support they need to teach about the history of American slavery.
Ida B. Wells and Her Crusade for Racial Justice
The abolition of slavery after the Civil War became the foundation for Ida B. Wells’s life work as a teacher, journalist, anti-lynching activist, community organizer, and woman suffragist.
Jefferson and Slavery – for ELD students
Students engage in a thoughtful and academic discussion about Jefferson and slavery after having worked through key quotes and primary sources regarding the topic.