Officially recognized as a Federal Holiday in 2021, Juneteenth (June 19th) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865, took control of the state, and ensured that all enslaved people were freed. It was the last American city to finally implement the Emancipation Proclamation (2.5 years after it was signed).
This book list features important context and information about Juneteenth so we can learn from our past, acknowledge, and honor the experiences of Black Americans.
Also don’t forget to check out the collection of films addressing the history and legacy of Juneteenth on Kanopy: Juneteenth | Kanopy
By Ellen Levine
A fictionalized account of how in 1849 a Virginia slave, Henry “Box” Brown, escapes to freedom by shipping himself in a wooden crate from Richmond to Philadelphia.
By Nancy Johnson
Learn about how freedom came to the slaves in June 1865.
By Kadir Nelson
An simple introduction to African-American history, from Revolutionary-era slavery up to the election of President Obama.
By Angela Johnson
In 1865, members of a family start their day as slaves, working in a Texas cotton field, and end it celebrating their freedom on what came to be known as Juneteenth.
By Pamela N. Harris
When you look like us–brown skin, brown eyes, black braids or fades–everyone else thinks you’re trouble. No one even blinks twice over a missing black girl from public housing because she must’ve brought whatever happened to her upon herself. I, Jay Murphy, can admit that, for a minute…(read full description).
By Kalynn Bayron
Teenaged Briseis, who possesses a supernatural power over plants, including poisonous ones, inherits a dilapidated estate in rural New York and must protect herself and her family from centuries-old secrets that threaten their lives.
By Lola Akinmade Åkerström
In Every Mirror She’s Black is a fast-paced, richly nuanced yet accessible contemporary novel that touches on important social issues of racism, classism, fetishization, and tokenism, and what it means to be a Black woman navigating a white-dominated society.
By Asali Solomon
Inspired by Mrs. Dalloway and Sula, The Days of Afrekete is a tender, surprising novel about two Philadelphia women at midlife who rediscover themselves-and perhaps each other
By Nancy Johnson
In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to, and abandoned, when she was a teenager. Returning home…(read full description).
By Kianna Alexander
Josephine N. Leary is determined to build a life of her own, and a future for her family. When she moves to Edenton, North Carolina from the plantation where she was born, she is free, newly married, and ready to follow her dreams. As the demands of life pull Josephine’s attention-deepening…(read full description).
By Louis Edwards
The Whiting Award-winning author makes his long-awaited comeback with this epic tale, spanning from the Deep South to the Middle East, that bridges four countries, two cultures, and three families who struggle to love and survive in the face of war, natural disasters, and other calamities beyond…(read full description).
Adult Nonfiction & History
By Harriet Washington
Carte Blanche is the alarming tale of how the right of Americans to say “no” to risky medical research is eroding at a time when we are racing to produce a vaccine and treatments for Covid-19. This medical right that we have long taken for granted was first sacrificed on the altar of…(read full description).
By Danielle Henderson
A sharp, hilarious memoir about a nontraditional upbringing and growing up Black in a predominantly white community
By Chris Joyner
The Three Death Sentences of Clarence Henderson’ is the story of Clarence Henderson, a wrongfully accused Black sharecropper who was sentenced to die three different times for a murder he didn’t commit, and the prosecution desperate to pin the crime on him despite scant evidence. His first…(read full description).
By Reverend Al Sharpton
Brings to light the stories of the unsung heroes of the civil rights movement, drawing on the author’s unique perspective in the history of the fight for social justice in America.
By Kali N. Gross and Daina Ramey Berry
A vibrant and empowering history that emphasizes the perspectives and stories of African American women to show how they are–and have always been–instrumental in shaping our country. In centering Black women’s stories, two award-winning historians seek both to empower African American…(read full description).
By Mortada Gzar
As the US occupation of Iraq rages, novelist Mortada Gzar, a student at the University of Baghdad, has a chance encounter with Morise, an African American soldier. It’s love at first sight, a threat to them both, and a moment of self-discovery. Challenged by society’s rejection and…(read full description).
By Annette Gordon-Reed
It is staggering that there is no date commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.” -Annette Gordon-Reed. The essential, sweeping story of Juneteenth’s integral importance to American history, as told by a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Texas native. Interweaving…(read full description).
By Clint Smith
A deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view– whether in places we might drive by on our way to work…(read full description).
By Annette Gordon-Reed
A leading advocate for prison abolition and transformative justice shares insights from the author’s firsthand experiences of growing up in a violent neighborhood and surviving a brutal incarceration.