On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, General Order #3 informed the citizens of Galveston, Texas, that all enslaved people were free. Juneteenth, short for June 19th, was celebrated annually in Galveston as the day that officially ended slavery in the United States.
Juneteenth spread in popularity through Texas and the rest of the United States. It become a day for family celebrations combined with reflection and education about the history of slavery, the legacy of reconstruction, and our country’s ongoing struggle to become a more perfect union.
Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021. Many businesses (including Bucks County Free Library) will observe the holiday this year on Monday, June 20.
One way we can honor the day is by reading books about the Juneteenth holiday and the history of our country following the Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth Books for Adults and Teens
On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed
Combining history and personal memoir, Gordon-Reed presents several essays that provide insight into the holiday. It is a concise and moving overview of the history of slavery and the struggle for freedom, as well as a reminder that the struggle for equality is ongoing.
How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith
A road trip of sorts. Smith traveled to various landmarks that illustrate the legacy of slavery and racism in the United States. The sites are as varied as Monticello and Angola penitentiary. He visited Galveston too – the site of the event that Juneteenth commemorates.
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
A classic that became a galvanizing force for the civil rights movement when it was published in 1963, this work takes the form of two letters, written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by Jesmyn Ward
Written as a response to The Fire Next Time, this is a series of essays that reflects on the past, present, and future of race in America.
Juneteenth Books for Children
Juneteenth by Lisa A. Crayton
Children will learn the history of Juneteenth and the variety of ways it is celebrated.
Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper
Mazie learns the true meaning of freedom.
Pat H., Yardley-Makefield branch