Juneteenth Booklist For All Ages

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

For Kids

Henry’s Freedom Box

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.

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans

By Kadir Nelson

An simple introduction to African-American history, from Revolutionary-era slavery up to the election of President Obama.

All Different Now: Juneteenth, The First Day of Freedom

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.

For Teens

When You Look Like Us

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).

The Poison Heart

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.

Adult Fiction

In Every Mirror She’s Black

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.

The Days of Afrekete

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

The Kindest Lie

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).

Carolina Built

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).

Ramadan Ramsey

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

Carte blanche : The Erosion of Medical Consent 

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).

The Ugly Cry: A Memoir

By Danielle Henderson

A sharp, hilarious memoir about a nontraditional upbringing and growing up Black in a predominantly white community

The Three Death Sentences of Clarence Henderson : A Battle for Racial Justice at the Dawn of the Civil Rights Era

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).

Righteous Troublemakers : Untold Stories of the Social Justice Movement in America

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.

A Black Women’s History of the United States

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).

I’m in Seattle, Where Are You? A Memoir

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).

On Juneteenth

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).

How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

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).

Bird Uncaged: An Abolitionist’s Freedom Song

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.