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.

Daughters of Jubilation by Kara Lee Corthron

16-year-old Evalene lives in a small U.S. Southern town in 1962. She’s just starting to come into her magical powers called Jubilation, which have been passed through generations of women in her family since before slavery. But those powers are as hard to understand and control as the emotions they bring to the forefront, and Evalene needs help figuring it all out.

Come Juneteenth by Ann Rinaldi

Although born a slave to Luli’s family, Goose feels loved and respected by the family to which she is attached, but when Union soldiers arrive and tell her that slavery ended more than two years prior, Goose feels betrayed like never before and runs away to experience real freedom for the first time in her life.

Dark Sky Rising by Henry Louis Gates

The National Humanities Medal recipient shares real-life accounts from the periods spanning the end of the Civil War, Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow segregation, in a scholarly tribute to the resiliency of the African American people at times of progress and betrayal.

Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden

Freed from slavery, Mariah and her younger brother Zeke join Sherman’s march through Georgia, where Mariah meets a free black named Caleb and dares to imagine the possibility of true love, but hope can come at a cost.

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

Trapped between the life she dreams of and the reality of post-Reconstruction Savannah, a young black woman with a troubled past is made over by a wealthy, cultured sponsor who opens doors to the upper echelons of black society in late 19th-century Washington, D.C.

Reconstructing America by Joanne Randolph

Some would say Reconstruction was just as significant of a period of time as the Civil War was itself. Even after slavery was abolished, there were still many issues that needed to be addressed. This innovative volume delves into these issues and sheds light on this significant time in United States history. Important social issues, such as racism and prejudice, are also discussed through detailed and age-appropriate text.

Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford

Joining her parents in a community celebration of Juneteenth, Cassie learns about the day when slaves in Texas were freed some two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and wonders why the news took so long to reach them.

Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper

Little Mazie wants the freedom to stay up late, but her father explains what freedom really means in the story of Juneteenth, and how her ancestors celebrated their true freedom.

Melena’s Jubilee by Zetta Elliott

Forgive and be forgiven. It sounds so appealing – why doesn’t it happen every day? Finding herself forgiven on a rain-scrubbed morning after a difficult day, Melena seizes her fresh start and shares the song in her heart with her family and friends. It’s a day of new beginnings. It’s Melena’s jubilee.

Days of Jubilee by Pat McKissack & Fredrick McKissack

Enhanced with slave narratives, letters, and diaries as well as period photos, offers a look at the period of transition, known as the “days of Jubilee”, when slavery ended and slaves became free men and women.

Juneteenth by Lisa A. Crayton

Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. Across the country, people observe the day with speeches, poetry readings, festivals, picnics, street fairs, and family reunions. It is a day for people to come together and continue working toward equality. Readers will discover how a shared holiday can have multiple traditions and be celebrated in all sorts of ways.

Freedom’s Gifts by Valerie Wilson Wesley

With the help of their elderly Aunt Marshall, June and her cousin Lillie celebrate Juneteenth, the day Texas slaves found out they had been freed, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

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