Juneteenth is an annual celebration to commemorate June 19, 1865, the day when all enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas learned of federal orders announcing their freedom. With information spreading slowly during this historical time, the news was shared two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the Civil War ended. Though this information was delayed, freedom was not denied and this special day was filled with dancing, traditional food, prayer, and historical readings.
Also known as Black Independence Day, Emancipation Day, and Jubilee Day, Juneteenth is now recognized in some form all over the country and most often celebrated by enjoying Black art, music, history, food, and culture. This special day was first officially recognized by the state of Texas and is now recognized by 47 of our 50 states. Today we continue to celebrate Juneteenth as a constant reminder that until everyone is free, no one is free. Juneteenth is an important day not only in Black History but in American history as we acknowledge the joy in the freedom of all people and the ongoing fight for justice and equality.
It’s important to note that though Juneteenth signifies freedom for all enslaved people in the United States, it was just the beginning of an uphill battle for equal rights and justice in our country. Juneteenth is a celebration for all people, not just Black people, as it forces us to acknowledge hard history while empowering us to advocate for and see the power in change. Here are five books (along with three tips) to help you learn more about celebrating Juneteenth with your family.
Learn about the history behind Juneteenth
Provide opportunities for your children to learn more about what Juneteenth is and its important place in American history.
- By Angela Johnson, Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
- Best for ages 4-7
This story begins on June 19, 1865, as a young girl that has been enslaved, goes about her daily routines. As she wakes to the smell of honeysuckle and begins working in the field, word spreads that she and all other enslaved people are free.
All Different Now is a joyful story portraying the raw emotion of receiving word of one’s freedom after years of enslavement. This story offers a unique perspective as it shows the experience of Juneteenth through the eyes of a child in 1865.
- By Floyd Cooper
- Best for ages 6-9
Mazie is frustrated with constantly being told “no” (which all kiddos can relate to!) and feeling as if she never gets to do what she wants or have things her way. Her father challenges her thinking by sharing an important story about freedom beginning with the day Mazie’s Great, Great, Great, Grandpa Mose became a free man.
Author and illustrator, Floyd Cooper makes an important connection between Mazie feeling restricted in her freedom and learning about the history of her ancestor and how he must have felt being enslaved. In addition, this story portrays the joy of freedom gained from the Emancipation Proclamation, but doesn’t shy away from the injustices and inequity Black people continue to face in America.
Start or join a Juneteenth celebration in your community
Learn about how to celebrate Juneteenth today and build a stronger sense of pride in your community by supporting Black businesses and events.
- By Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan
- Best for ages 6-9
This story begins as Cassie and her family begin to settle into their new home state of Texas. Just as Cassie begins to feel like Texas just isn’t quite home, her family gets all dressed up and fills a large picnic basket with delicious food to attend a special community celebration that helps her feel connected to her new home state and community.
We love Juneteenth Jamboree because it is filled with excitement, good food, fancy clothes, and most of all a strong sense of community and pride. Author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Yvonne Buchana do a beautiful job of introducing this important holiday helping readers imagine the joy experienced on this special day on June 19, 1865.
Celebrate Juneteenth with Black joy
Read stories and share experiences that celebrate Black characters through love, family, friendship, and happiness.
- Best for ages 6-9
- By Kwame Alexander, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
We featured The Undefeated in our monthly book club before it won the Caldecott & Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award! This book is a tribute and celebration of Black history, highlighting the treacherous journey and fight from enslavement to freedom. This inspirational poem is for all the undefeated, unforgettable people who fought for the freedom of Black people today.
We love this book for its powerful prose celebrating the passion and perseverance throughout Black history. Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson use each page to sprinkle references from the words of inspirational visionaries like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Gwendolyn Brooks, and Langston Hughes.
- Best for ages 4-8
- By Kadir Nelson
Based on a spiritual that is now one of American’s most well-known songs, He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands portrays a little Black boy’s joy in connecting with people and nature. From feeling the sun and rain to seeing the stars and moon, he’s free to experience and enjoy the world around him.
Inspired by the message of the song, each page is filled with Kadir Nelson’s signature illustrations portraying vast landscapes and warm images. We love this book for its ability to draw readers in with a comforting connection between family, nature, and the world.