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Historical Happenings in June 2023

Summer vacation has officially begun, and June is packed with monumental moments! Join us as we dive into this month’s pool of “Historical Happenings.” Teachers, enjoy your long-awaited and much-deserved break, and parents, take advantage of these free resources and activities to continue educating your child over the summer!

History at a Glance:
  • June 1-30, 2023: National Caribbean American Heritage Month

  • June 1, 2023: Dino Day

  • June 14, 1777: Flag Day

  • June 19, 1865: Juneteenth

June 1-30: National Caribbean American Heritage Month

The Institute of Caribbean Studies reached out to President Bill Clinton in 1999 to establish a designated month to celebrate Caribbean American Heritage. Initially, the month of recognition asked for was August. However, this changed in 2004 when Dr. Claire A. Nelson launched the official campaign to designate June as National Caribbean American Heritage Month. Office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee tabled a bill in the U.S. Congress, and The Institute of Caribbean Studies worked with Congresswoman Barbara Lee to gather support across the nation and organize events.[1]

In June 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill. In February 2006, the U.S. Senate passed the resolution, with President George W. Bush signing the proclamation in June. Since then, Presidential Proclamations have declared June as Caribbean American Heritage Month annually. The month-long celebration highlights Caribbean Americans' culture, traditions, and contributions.

One Caribbean American from history we all may have heard of is our very own founding father, Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, the United States' first Secretary of the Treasury, was from the Caribbean island of Nevis. Other notable Caribbean Americans are Colin Powell (the first appointed African American Secretary of the State), James Weldon Johnson (author of the Black National Anthem), Celia Cruz (“Queen of Salsa”), and Shirley Chisholm (the first African American to be elected to the United States Congress[2]). In 2006, Sheryl Lee Ralph, a well-known actress and singer of Jamaican heritage, and Rick Fox, an NBA star of Bahamian heritage, were given the titles of the Official Spokespersons for National Caribbean American Heritage Month.

In 2019, approximately 4.5 million Caribbean Americans lived in the United States, representing 10 percent of the United States' total foreign-born population.[3] About 90 percent of Caribbean Americans came from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad, and Tobago. New York, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Texas, and California have the largest populations of Caribbean Americans.

Learn more about National Caribbean American Heritage Month in our blog!

Parent Resources:

  • “Caribbean Spirit” by Google Arts & Culture: Delve into the influence of Caribbean Americans on Black history in the United States and discover many remarkable artists and activists you may not have realized were of Caribbean origin.

  • Caribbean Beats and Blends” by Smithsonian Folkways: Listen, sing along, and play instruments using the “Caribbean Beats and Blends” activity by Smithsonian Folkways. Create patterns between Caribbean people’s music and their cultures, languages, geographies, and values by following along.

  • “Tropical Fruit Punch” Recipe by Inside the Kitchen: Try this recipe for a tropical fruit punch to help cool off in the summer heat and to take a quick break from learning! With only four ingredients, this punch is super simple to make. Start by pouring grenadine syrup into the bottom of your cup, add ice, and pour the instructed amount of orange juice, pineapple, and mango juice. Garnish with some slices of fruit and cherry on top, and you are good to go! Parents, feel free to add any extra to your glass of punch!

June 1: Dino Day

June 1 is National Dinosaur Day! National Dinosaur Day can be celebrated by students, teachers, and anyone interested in learning more about the history and science behind the wild and ginormous reptiles that dominated Earth.

The dinosaur population was at its height during the Mesozoic Era, about 245 million years ago, and began to decline near the end of the Cretaceous Period.[4] It is said that dinosaurs went extinct due to an asteroid hitting the Yucatan peninsula 66 million years ago, which caused sunlight to be blocked for many years, killing off most plant life and ending the dinosaur lineage.

Oxford professor Robert Plot was the first to discover evidence of dinosaurs in 1676. Plot excavated a single bone and, at first, could not decide what it was. He ended up concluding that it was an elephant bone. In 1824, William Buckland published fossils consisting of a lower jawbone and teeth, describing the two dinosaurs Megalosaurus and Iguanodon. It wasn’t until 1842 that Richard Owen, a British paleontologist, suggested the term Dinosauria. This name included Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, and Hylaeosaurus, three dinosaurs that were graphed using large fossilized bones dug up at various locations in southern England.[5] He described them as “fearfully great reptiles.”

A great way to spend National Dinosaur Day is to go to your local dinosaur museum! Inspect dinosaur bones, hang out with dinosaurs all day, and learn mind-blowing facts about dinosaurs and all of their different species. Don’t have a dinosaur museum near you? Enjoy a movie day and watch some of the most popular dinosaur films like Jurassic Park, Night at the Museum, or The Land Before Time! “Dig” into some of these resources below for even more “T-rex-iffic” ways to celebrate National Dinosaur Day!

Parent Resources:

  • “Fossil Footprints Across Our Parks” by National Park Service: Ranger Anna takes you on a guided hike through national parks to see fossil footprints and teaches you about the ancient history of the Earth and dinosaurs. Available in English and Spanish, this offers an abundance of pictures, maps, and other interactive material.

  • “Dinosaur Dig Excavation Activity” by Fun Learning for Kids: This activity is a super easy and fun way for kids to pretend they are a paleontologist for the day! Corn starch, water, a few containers, dinosaur toys, and toy tools are all you need for this activity. You can begin by combining cornstarch and water with a 2:1 ratio of cornstarch to water. You will want to form what is known as “oobleck,” which basically is a part-solid, part-liquid substance. Then, you will place the toy dinosaurs/bones into the oobleck and push them down as far as possible in order to bury them. Leave this concoction outside in the sun for a day or two; it will get very hard, which will tell you it is ready. Once it’s ready, let your child go at it, excavating and searching for the “dinosaur fossils!” If you happen to have a sandbox, you can also hide toy dinosaurs and bones in the sand and have your child dig through the sand to find them!

For even more fun activities for you and your child to participate in on Dino Day, check out this Carole Marsh Book Club blog. You can also explore our dinosaur graphic novel series James Bone – 007 Years Old – Licensed to Dig!

June 14, 1777: Flag Day

On June 14, 1777, the United States Continental Congress approved the design for its first national flag with the following adopted resolution, “That the flag of the United States shall be of thirteen stripes of alternate red and white, with a union of thirteen stars of white in a blue field, representing the new constellation.”[6] Allegedly, President George Washington asked Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia seamstress, to design the nation’s first flag. However, this is disputed by scholars who credit the flag’s design to Francis Hopkinson, who created the first coin of the United States and the Great Seal.[7]

Betsy Ross is not to be discredited, though, as she sewed earlier American flags for her family's Philadelphia upholstery shop and most likely met President Washington, so the question of who to credit the flag design to can definitely be debated.

The approved design of the flag was carried into battle on September 11, 1777, for the first time in the Battle of the Brandywine in the American Revolutionary War. It was first saluted on February 14, 1778, by foreign naval vessels under Captial Paul Jones's command. It was first flown over a territory in a British fort taken over by American troops in Nassau, Bahamas.[8]

William T. Kerr is known as “The Father of Flag Day” due to founding the American Flag Day Association of Western Pennsylvania in 1888. However, the idea to commemorate or set aside a day to honor the national flag came from several sources; therefore, there is not one person credited. The (possibly) earliest known claim comes from Hartford, Connecticut, in 1861 by George Morris, who is said to have had the Flag’s first formal celebration. A Wisconsin schoolteacher, Bernard J. Cigrand, urged his students to observe June 14 as “Flag Birthday” in 1885 and even wrote an essay and had it published in a Chicago newspaper encouraging Americans to commemorate this date to celebrate the flag. Another claim comes from a kindergarten principal in New York City, Professor George Bolch, who held patriotic ceremonies observing the Flag Day resolution in 1889, which ended up gaining attraction from the State Department of Education, who arranged the day to be observed in all public schools that day.

A national Flag Day was declared by President Woodrow Wilson on June 14, 1916; however, this day had already been celebrated by several districts and states prior to his Presidential Proclamation. It was not until August 3, 1949, that Congress approved the national observance of National Flag Day, and it was signed into law by President Harry Truman. Along with this national observance, the president must also issue a yearly flag day proclamation.

Today, there are 27 official versions of the United States flag, and the current flag dates back to July 4, 1960. National Flag Day is a national observance in all states, but Pennsylvania is the only state that recognizes National Flag Day as a legal holiday.

Flag Day is an excellent way for you and your children to celebrate patriotism and the history of the United States! Get into the spirit of National Flag Day by dressing up in red, white, or blue and participating in these activities!

Parent Resources:

  • “Flag Timeline” by US History: This American flag timeline dates all the way from 1777 to the present, with each of the 27 amended flags along with current facts about laws involving the American flag.

  • “Handprint Flag Craft” by Our Kid Things: These handprint flags are super cute, and your child will have so much fun making them! All you need is red cardstock, acrylic paint (white and blue), a white marker, jumbo craft sticks, scissors, and a glue stick. Begin by tracing your child’s handprint on the red cardstock and cutting it out. Next, paint every other finger white. Then, paint the palm blue and stop painting to where you would have stopped with the white. Let the paint dry, then add the white stars using a white marker or paint pen. Finally, glue the handprint flag to your jumbo craft stick, and you have your official product! Have a neighborhood parade and wave your handprint flags!

  • Paper Chain American Flag: This is another craft you and your family can do together to hang up for National Flag Day. It’s assembled using red, blue, and white construction/copy paper, staples, paper clips, scissors, and tape.

June 19, 1865: Juneteenth

Juneteenth National Independence Day (also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Black Independence Day, and Juneteenth/Juneteenth Independence Day) is observed each year on June 19, celebrating the official end of slavery in the United States. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring the enslaved African Americans living in the Confederate states to be free. However, this news did not reach the enslaved African Americans living in Texas for more than two and a half years. It was not until June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers came to take control of Texas and General Order Number 3 was read:

"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer."

Juneteenth was celebrated exactly a year later, on June 19, by a freedman in Texas who organized what became known as the annual celebration of “Jubilee Day.”[9] Original celebrations included prayer meetings and the singing of spiritual songs, and later on in the 21st century, celebrations spread throughout the country with speeches, festivals, food, religious services, and more.

In 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas.[10] In June 2021, a resolution establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday was passed by Congress. On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden formally signed the resolution into law.[11] Today, Juneteenth is also celebrated in other countries and used by organizations to recognize the end of slavery and honor African American traditions, customs, and accomplishments. To learn more about Juneteenth, check out our blog.

Parent Resources:

  • Celebrate Juneteenth by spreading love and peace not only on June 19, but every day! If you live near or in any major cities, look for parades and festivals taking place you can go to. If you happen to live in Houston, visit Emancipation Park, which is 10 acres of land that was purchased by a group of African American ministers and businessmen in 1872.

  • “Original ‘Juneteenth’ General Order” (General Order Number 3) by National Archives: The official document of the handwritten records informing the people of Texas that all enslaved people were now free is available on the National Archive’s website. Take a look and learn more about it by viewing a digital version of the original document!

  • Red Velvet Cake Recipe by Thrillist: Enjoy baking? Try out this red velvet cake recipe in honor of Juneteenth! Red foods are symbolic for Juneteenth. Can’t bake from scratch? Buy some red velvet cake mix and frosting from the store!

For more historical tidbits, lesson plan ideas, and free activities, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, check out our other blogs for even more resources!


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