Choyce Miller, KIPP Foundation
Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day is one the oldest annual holidays commemorating the abolition of slavery in the United States.
June 19 1865, marks the day the last remaining enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas found out they were free, almost two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was signed, and about two months after the civil war ended.
On January 1 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas making it the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition. Since then, over 46 states have declared Juneteenth a state holiday.
The acknowledgment of Juneteenth as a national holiday is an important step towards reconciling and repairing decades of systemic racism and erasure of Black culture from United States history.
As the push for Juneteenth to become a national holiday picks up momentum, thousands of Black Americans across the country come together annually on June 19 to celebrate their true freedom and heritage through entertainment, education and self-improvement.
In the spirit of Juneteenth, check out this list of books that keep the history of Emancipation Day alive through literature.
By Carole Boston Weatherford
This fictional story explains Juneteenth, a Texas tradition celebrating the end of slavery through the eyes of a young girl named Cassandra.
Juneteenth for Mazie
By Floyd Cooper
Mazie is ready to celebrate liberty. She is ready to celebrate freedom. She is ready to celebrate a great day in American history — the day her ancestors were no longer slaves. Mazie remembers the struggles and the triumph, as she gets ready to celebrate Juneteenth. This beautiful story by award-winning author and illustrator Floyd Cooper will captivate both children and adults.
By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Drew Nelson, illustrated by Mark Schroder
June 19th, 1865, began as another hot day in Texas. African American slaves worked in fields, in barns, and in the homes of the white people who owned them. Then a message arrived. Freedom! Slavery had ended! The Civil War had actually ended in April. It took two months for word to reach Texas. Still the joy of that amazing day has never been forgotten. Every year, people all over the United States come together on June 19th to celebrate the end of slavery.
Freedom’s Gifts: A Juneteenth Story
By Valerie Wesley, illustrated by Sharon Wilson
Juneteenth — the day Texan slaves found out they had been freed, two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation — is June’s favorite holiday. This year, though, her cousin Lillie will be there for the Juneteenth picnic. That could spoil everything. Lillie is used to celebrating the Fourth of July, like everyone else, and has no interest in Southern traditions. But Aunt Marshall, the girls’ great-great-aunt, knows the significance of Juneteenth — she was about June’s age on June 19th, 1865, when the celebration began in Texas — and she just may be able to convince Lillie that Juneteenth is not a dumb old slave holiday, but a part of her heritage, and the first of many of freedom’s gifts.
All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom
By Angela Johnson, illustrated by E.B Lewis
Through the eyes of one little girl, All Different Now tells the story of the first Juneteenth, the day freedom finally came to the last of the slaves in the South. Told in Angela Johnson’s signature melodic style and brought to life by E.B. Lewis’s striking paintings, All Different Now is a joyous portrait of the dawn breaking on the darkest time in our nation’s history.
By Ann Rinaldi
Sis Goose is a beloved member of Luli’s family, despite the fact that she was born a slave. But the family is harboring a terrible secret. And when Union soldiers arrive on their Texas plantation to announce that slaves have been declared free for nearly two years, Sis Goose is horrified to learn that the people she called family have lied to her for so long. She runs away–but her newly found freedom has tragic consequences.
How could the state of Texas keep the news of the Emancipation Proclamation from reaching slaves? In this riveting Great Episodes historical drama, Ann Rinaldi sheds light on the events that led to the creation of Juneteenth, a celebration of freedom that continues today.
By Linda Beatrice Brown
The compelling story of three young orphans who must survive on their own during the Civil War. It’s near the end of the war, and rumors of emancipation are swirling. Eleven-year-old Luke decides to run away to freedom and join the Union Army. But he doesn’t find the Yankee troops he was hoping for. Instead, he finds nine-year-old Daylily, lost in the woods after suffering an unspeakable tragedy. Her master set her free, but freedom so far has her scared and alone. In the chaos and violence that follows, three unrelated children discover a bond in each other stronger than family.
By Ralph Ellison
Published posthumously in 1999, Juneteenth is a follow up to Ellison’s highly acclaimed Invisible Man. Juneteenth is a multifaceted coming of age novel about identity.
The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology
By Kianna Alexander, Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, and Piper Huguley
The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology, with a foreword by the inimitable Beverly Jenkins, brings you four novellas highlighting love, light, and hope set over a period of history that’s often left in the shadows.