How Juneteenth is being taught in Chicago area schools

CHICAGO (WLS) -- I didn't learn about Juneteenth until I was in my early 20s, when I was living in the South. For many of us Chicago natives, the holiday wasn't taught or celebrated when we were growing up.

But a lot has changed for elementary students. I went back to my alma mater to see how they're honoring the Juneteenth holiday.

Students at William H. Ray Elementary School in Hyde Park are not only learning about Juneteenth and how it came to be, they're also taking part in the celebration.

WATCH | 'Our Chicago: Black Freedom' commemorates Juneteenth

"It was the day the slaves were released in 1865," 5th grader Miles Campbell said.

"It's a big part of Black history. Usually, most people only learn about people like Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, but this is also a big part of Black history that is thrown under the rug and no one hears about," 8th grader Jamir Farmer said.

"While we talk about the challenges of people as a whole throughout history, that also we focus on the triumphs and the wins and the celebrations of people as a whole," said Chandra Garcia-Kitch, who teaches 3rd and 4th grade.

At the Barack Obama Learning Academy in Markham, Odessa Pickett is putting her heart and soul into her Juneteenth lesson. She says it's not just Black history, it's American history.

"If it's not in the textbook, then we need to introduce it, we need to teach it, we need to bring it to the forefront," she said.

Teachers and administrators say it's important to have conversations about race and diversity, trials and triumph.

At Ray School, the mission continues to ensure that all students feel embraced and welcome while incorporating history that should never be forgotten.
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