Books to Honor Juneteenth

Top 8 Children’s Books to Celebrate Juneteenth

Juneteenth is an annual celebration to commemorate June 19, 1865, the day when 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.

On June 17, 2021, Juneteenth, also known as Black Independence Day, Emancipation Day, and Jubilee Day, was made an official American holiday. This special day is most often celebrated by enjoying Black art, music, history, food, and culture. 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 continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.

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 in our country. Juneteenth is a celebration for all people because it forces us to acknowledge hard history while empowering us to advocate for and see the power of change. Here are eight 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.

The Juneteenth Story Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah L. Agostini, Illustrated by Sawyer Cloud (ages 7-12)

  • About

This story is based on the events that lead up to the first Juneteenth celebration. Including details from the beginning of the Civil War to President Lincoln’s Emancipation and the present-day Juneteenth celebration, readers leave with a comprehensive understanding of the origin of the national holiday.

  • Why We Love It

This story shines a light on not only the celebration but Black Americans’ journey to freedom. Additionally, author Alliah Agostini adds her personal experience with the holiday while including informative and age-appropriate context for this age group.

A Flag For Juneteenth by Kim Taylor, Illustrated by Sawyer Cloud (ages 5-9)

  • About

Huldah is preparing for her tenth birthday when she and other enslaved African Americans on a plantation in Texas are awakened by the sound of horse hooves.  General Gordon Granger delivers the message that African Americans were to be free in Texas. Huldah and her community celebrate by sewing special flags and singing songs of freedom.

  • Why We Love It

Author and master quilter Kim Taylor includes a celebratory story of Juneteenth with beautifully hand-sewn and quilted illustrations throughout the book. This story highlights the connectedness and strong sense of community enslaved African Americans had during and after freedom.

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, Illustrated by E.B. Lewis (ages 4-7)

Juneteenth best book picks: all different now book cover
  • About

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.

  • Why We Love It

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.

Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper (ages 6-9)

Juneteenth best book picks: juneteenth for mazie book cover
  • About

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.

  • Why We Love It

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 inequities 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.

Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan (ages 6-9)

Juneteenth best book picks: juneteenth jamboree book cover
  • About

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 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.

  • Why We Love It

We love Juneteenth Jamboree because it is filled with excitement, good food, fancy clothes, and 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.

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson (ages 6-9)

Juneteenth best book picks: The Undefeated book cover
  • About

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.

  • Why We Love It

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.

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand by Kadir Nelson (ages 4-8)

Juneteenth best book picks: He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand cover
  • About

Based on a spiritual that is now one of America’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.

  • Why We Love It

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.

Little Black Lives Matter by Khodil Dill, Illustrated by Chelsea Charles (ages 0-4)

  • About

Filled with prominent Black leaders, this book inspires all children, especially Black children, to find the hero within themselves. From James Baldwin to Marsha P. Johnson, and Fredrick Douglas, this book affirms that Black lives matter. 

  • Why We Love It

The rhyming storyline, along with activists that are often excluded from mainstream history, make this book stand out. Additionally, the incorporation of the specific words and actions these leaders took encourages little ones to find their inner voice.

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