Juneteenth: Celebrate Freedom

Juneteenth celebrates June 19, 1865, the day when the last enslaved people in Texas and other Confederate states were informed of their freedom, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth has inspired literature for adults, including Ralph Ellison’s classic novel of the same name, but there are also great books to introduce the holiday’s stories and traditions to readers of all ages.

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On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

In this intricately woven tapestry of American history, dramatic family chronicle, and searing episodes of memoir, the descendant of enslaved people brought to Texas in the 1850s, recounts the origins of Juneteenth and explores the legacies of the holiday that remain with us.

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

An epic history covering the period from the end of World War I through the 1970s chronicles the decades-long migration of African Americans from the South to the North and West through the stories of three individuals and their families.

Envisioning Emancipation by Deborah Willis & Barbara Krauthamer

Envisioning Emancipation illustrates what freedom looked like for black Americans in the Civil War era. From photos of the enslaved on plantations and African American soldiers and camp workers in the Union Army to Juneteenth celebrations, slave reunions, and portraits of black families and workers in the American South, the images in this book challenge perceptions of slavery. They show not only what the subjects emphasized about themselves but also the ways Americans of all colors and genders opposed slavery and marked its end.

Sweet Taste of Liberty by W. Caleb McDaniel

Sweet Taste of Liberty is an epic tale of a black woman who survived slavery twice and who achieved more than merely a moral victory over one of her oppressors. Above all, it is a portrait of an extraordinary woman and a searing reminder of the lessons of her story as Americans continue to debate reparations for slavery.

Forever Free by Eric Foner

Analyzes the post-Civil War era of Emancipation and Reconstruction with an emphasis on discovering the larger political and cultural meaning for contemporary America of the lives of the newly freed slaves and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.

Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington

Washington recounts the story of his life—from slave to educator. The early sections deal with his upbringing as a slave and his efforts to get an education. Washington details his transition from student to teacher, and outlines his own development as an educator and founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. In the final chapters, Washington describes his career as a public speaker and civil rights activist.

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