There’s no shortage of books for children and adults to learn more about Juneteenth, which marks the day in 1865 that the last people held as slaves in the United States learned of their freedom.
This is from a proclamation about Juneteenth by President Obama in 2009:
On this day in 1865, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, those who found themselves still enslaved in Galveston, Texas, had their hopes realized and their prayers answered. Contrary to what others had told them, the rumors they had heard were indeed true. The Civil War had ended, and they were now free.
Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in 49 of the 50 U.S. states. There is a growing movement to mark it as a national holiday, as a day for people to learn more about slavery and the traditions of Juneteenth. Given the recent widespread protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of white Minneapolis police officers, the day is taking on special significance this year.
Many employers in Illinois are observing Juneteenth as a paid holiday, there will be parades and freedom marches, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker has ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff. “The governor is committed to honoring both the celebration of Juneteenth and paying respect to those who lost their lives, by lowering the flag in honor in them,” Pritzker’s office said in a statement.
USA Today has compiled a list of 25 books for children, teenagers, and adults that will teach more about Juneteenth. Here are some of the recommended books for children and teens:
- All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
- Juneteenth for Mazie written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper
- The Story of Juneteenth: An Interactive History Adventure by Steven Otfinoski
- Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan
- Black History for Beginners by Denise Dennis, illustrated by Susan Willmarth
- Wagon Wheels by Barbara Brenner, illustrated by Don Bolognese
- Freedom’s a-Callin Me by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Rod Brown
- Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier
- Escape From Slavery: Five Journeys to Freedom by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Charles Lilly
- Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Many branches of the Chicago Public Library have reopened with limited services for patrons to check out books, using social distancing practices and requiring masks. CPS also has a list of several books recommended as a way for students to learn about Juneteenth. Books also are available as e-books and audiobooks.