Celebrate Juneteenth with these interesting reads

Published 11:25 am Tuesday, June 6, 2023

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Juneteenth is a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, celebrated on June 19th. During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which made slavery illegal. When Northern troops captured a region of the Confederacy, the people who were enslaved in that region were freed. The last area to fall to the Northern troops was Texas. When Northern soldiers arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865, they brought the news that slavery had been abolished. Recognize this important national holiday by picking up one of these books!


Juneteenth by Van G. Garrett

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A lyrical picture book about our newest national holiday, Juneteenth follows the annual celebration in Galveston, Texas—the birthplace of Juneteenth—through the eyes of a boy coming to understand his place in Black American history in a story from three Texan creators. The poetic text includes selected lyrics from “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the unofficial Black National Anthem and the vibrant art illuminates the beauty of this moment of Black joy, celebrated across the nation. 


What is Juneteenth? by Kirsti Jewel

On June 19th, 1865, a group of enslaved men, women, and children in Texas gathered around a Union soldier and listened as he read the most remarkable words they would ever hear. They were no longer enslaved: they were free. The inhumane practice of forced labor with no pay was now illegal in all of the United States. This news was cause for celebration, so the group of people jumped in excitement, danced, and wept tears of joy. They did not know it at the time, but their joyous celebration of freedom would become a holiday–Juneteenth–that is observed each year by more and more Americans. Author Kirsti Jewel shares stories from Juneteenth celebrations, both past and present, and chronicles the history that led to the creation of this joyous day. 


All Different Now by Angela Johnson

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. Since then, the observance of June 19th as African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. This stunning picture book includes notes from the author and illustrator, a timeline of important dates, and a glossary of relevant terms. 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.


On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

Weaving together American history, a dramatic family chronicle, and searing episodes of memoir, this adult nonfiction book provides a historian’s view of the country’s long road to Juneteenth, recounting both its origins in Texas and the enormous hardships that African-Americans have endured in the century since, from Reconstruction through Jim Crow and beyond. 


Jen Pace Dickenson is the Youth Services Librarian for Polk County Public Libraries. For information about the library’s resources, programs, and other services, visit polklibrary.org or call (828) 894-8721.