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June 19, 2023

Juneteenth soon may be taught to all students in the School District of Philadelphia

The Board of Education will vote on a measure that would add lessons about the federal holiday to the K-12 curriculum

Education Juneteenth
Juneteenth Philly schools Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The School District of Philadelphia will add Juneteenth lessons to its K-12 curriculum if a resolution at an upcoming Board of Education meeting passes.

Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in America, became a federal holiday in 2021. Beginning next school year, all students in the School District of Philadelphia will learn about the celebration if a resolution before the Board of Education passes. 

The school board will vote on the resolution at its meeting on Thursday, June 29. If the measure is adopted, Juneteenth would be taught in all K-12 classes. The school district also would host events and offer resources on the annual holiday to parents and community members.

Juneteenth is observed each year on June 19, the date when the 250,000 enslaved people in Texas learned they were free through an order by a Union major general. Though the Emancipation Proclamation had freed many slaves in 1863, it did not extend to enslaved people in border states loyal to the Union cause, like Kentucky and West Virginia, and many Confederate states resisted emancipation altogether. Thus, in areas like Texas, many enslaved people did not know they were free for years. The Juneteenth order was issued on June 19, 1865 in Galveston and the 13th Amendment was ratified later that year on Dec. 6, formally ending slavery across the country.

"Because Juneteenth is a significant historic event that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and symbolizes the ongoing struggle for freedom, equality and justice, it's important to include this in our K-12 curriculum," Reginald L. Streater, president of the Board of Education, said in a press release. "It's especially important to teach this in a school district that is dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion."

Though Juneteenth often falls when schools are on summer break, some schools in New York City and Chicago have incorporated it into lesson plans during the academic year. But a wave of recent restrictions on education, particularly in Republican-led states in the South, has prevented some teachers from discussing the date altogether.

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