South Orangetown Central School District

“Students have been asking why we are off on Monday and what Juneteenth is about, so I’ve incorporated a short lesson into class time today,” explained South Orangetown Middle School ELA teacher Colleen Henry yesterday.

Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that enslaved African Americans in Texas were told that they were free. Juneteenth, which is celebrated on June 19, honors the anniversary of the emancipation of all enslaved African Americans in the United States and is now a federal and state holiday.

Henry shared the author’s and illustrator’s notes from “All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom” with her seventh-grade students. Author Angela Johnson writes that wondering about how her great-grandparents, who were born into slavery, would have celebrated their own freedom led her to pen this story. Illustrator E.B. Lewis describes the extensive research he did to rise to the challenge of “visually translat[ing]” Johnson’s story, with the help of a school district in South Carolina.

In addition to learning about Juneteenth, students were able to make connections between the notes and their own work. “This year, our students have written author’s notes and artist statements to share what inspired them to write their own works and their artistic process in illustrating them,” Henry noted.

Assistant Principal Danielle Rodriguez, Ed.D. shared educational resources with teachers and, consistent with other national holidays and monthly celebrations, there was an educational morning announcement about Juneteenth today. “At SOMS, we are sharing the significance of Juneteenth with our students through classroom activities and read-alouds. On this federal holiday, it is important for us to come together as a school community to commemorate the anniversary of the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.”

Juneteenth classroom lesson at SOMS