Juneteenth celebrations have always existed, but why isn’t it a national holiday?

Black history is American history and our kids need to know it.

Juneteenth celebrations have always existed, but why isn’t it a national holiday?

Annual Juneteenth Parade and Festival in Philadelphia, PA, 2018

Bastiaan Slabbers/Getty

Today marks one of the most important moments in U.S. history, and while it isn't a national holiday (yet) some states and companies are recognizing the historical significance of Juneteenth.

On June 19th, 1865 more than 250,000 enslaved people in Texas learned slavery was over. This came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. According to the U.S. Library of Congress, "Spontaneous celebrations broke out as the news spread, and these gave rise to annual events to mark the day."

This year, as America faces the fact the fact that systemic racism is still in existence and needs to be dismantled and that Black people are killed by police at disproportionate rates and Black mothers and babies are more likely to die during or shortly after birth, many are calling for Juneteenth to be recognized as a federal holiday.


Black Lives Matter and Black history matters, too, because it's not just Black history—it's American history.

"African Americans were on the front lines of every war, from the Spanish-American War, throughout the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, both world wars, Vietnam," says Gwen Ragsdale, executive director of the Lest We Forget Slavery Museum in Philadelphia tells NPR. "We have paid our dues with our blood and our toil, so America owes African Americans much more than they are willing to acknowledge."

Mary Elliott, the curator of American slavery at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. tells National Geographic that too often American history paints Black people as passive in the fight to end slavery and that isn't true. Juneteenth recognizes how Black people fought to free the enslaved, the role of Black people in building the nation afterward and how Black people are still leading change in America today.

"Too often, the story has been that they were fortunate to have non-African Americans writing the legislation to secure their freedom. But it was African Americans who were out there fighting the good fight, and they still are," says Elliott.

"During the [post-Civil War] Reconstruction period, African Americans were agents for change for their own lives during the nation's transition," she tells National Geographic.

Twitter, Nike and JC Penny are among the companies recognizing the holiday internally, giving employees a day on the historic day. Texas was the first to declare Juneteenth a statewide official holiday in 1980, and while 47 states and DC have legislation recognizing it as a holiday or observance, it's not given the recognition it deserves (and most people are not given the day off work).

That's changing, slowly, and this week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for state employees. But many say it needs to be more than that. It needs to be celebrated and taught to all American children in the way other historically significant holidays are.

As Opal Lee, a 93-year-old Black woman who has been campaigning for Juneteenth recognition for years, explains: "I just keep thinking that if we were able to work together as a people, white folks, brown folks, black folks, we could accomplish something. I see Juneteenth as the unifier, bringing all folks together."

Many Black families and communities are coming together today for celebrations, cookouts and parades.

But even if your kids are not Black, your family can and should celebrate Juneteenth today. If you don't know what to do, start with a story: Read one of the many books the New York Public Library recommends for kids on this day. They've curated a list of children's books specifically for Juneteenth and another great Black liberation reading list full of beautiful and important children's books. Get creative and have your kids write and decorate the words Black Lives Matter on with sidewalk chalk outside your home.

If you've got teens in the house, you can turn to YouTube this evening as Karamu House, the oldest black theater company in the United States, debuts its first streaming theatrical production "Freedom on Juneteenth," and the aftershow panel discussion on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Today's a day to recognize history and current events and teach our children lessons too many generations of non-Black kids didn't hear. It's time for all American families to understand and celebrate Juneteenth.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

Keep reading Show less

Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play