8 Great Books To Teach Kids About Juneteenth
These books will teach children of all ages about Juneteenth and help dismantle the structures and systems that have continued after emancipation.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring freedom for all enslaved people in the Confederate states. However, enslavers in the state of Texas did not comply with the Emancipation Proclamation, and with only a limited number of Union forces there, the proclamation was essentially unenforceable throughout the state.
To rectify this situation, Major General Gordon Granger, commanding officer of the District of Texas, arrived in Galveston, Texas with over 2,000 federal soldiers. On June 19, 1865, Granger announced General Order No. 3, proclaiming freedom for the 250,000 enslaved people in Texas and by doing so, every enslaved person in the U.S. finally knew that the institution of slavery had come to an end and they were free.
Juneteenth (short for "June Nineteenth") commemorates this day and has been celebrated for generations. Here are some thought-provoking books to teach children of all ages about Juneteenth and the responsibility we all have, now more than ever, to dismantle the structures and systems that have continued after emancipation and to make America a place where every person is truly free.
For Pre-K to Age 5
This simple and straightforward story written by Shanita Arrindell is perfect for helping our youngest children understand the concepts of slavery and freedom and also teaches them the power of hope in helping us triumph over hardship.
For Ages 5-9
This book by Angele Johnson tells the story of the first Juneteenth through the perspective of a young enslaved girl. Young readers easily come to understand the hardships and cruelty of slavery but also the joy and optimism that the declaration of its end brings.
This is an entertaining and interactive storybook by Anece Rochell told in the voice of a young African American boy, Daylen, who is excited and ready to share everything he knows about Juneteenth. He explains the day's origin, customs, and importance. The book ends with a "words to know" page, to help children build a Juneteenth vocabulary.
Floyd Cooper's book features Mazie, a little girl who is getting tired of hearing "no" from her parents and does not feel she has any freedom. However, when her father teaches her about Juneteenth, she gains perspective about what freedom really means. When she celebrates Juneteenth for the first time with her family, she thinks deeply about the struggles and triumphs of her ancestors and the work still needed for a future where everyone is truly free.
For Ages 9-14
Through prose and poetry, Ama Karikari Yawson's book explores African Heritage, slavery, the abolition movement and Juneteenth. It is full of fun activities for readers, including planning a Juneteenth celebration, designing their own flag to represent Juneteenth and writing a Juneteenth reflection essay.
This book by Carole Boston Weatherford tells the wonderful story of a Cassie, a young girl in Texas who is celebrating her first Juneteenth with her family. Not only does she learn about the holiday, the intense excitement and joy of the celebration helps her really understand the precious gift of true freedom.
For Ages 14 and Above
This stunning work of non-fiction written by The Atlantic staff writer Clint Smith, explores the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history. It is a great book for parents to read with older children. The writer takes readers on tours of U.S. monuments and landmarks that are central to the story of American slavery and by so doing, shows how much slavery has shaped American memory and history.
Richard Rothstein's book is a groundbreaking investigation into how federal, state, and local governments intentionally and strategically imposed residential racial segregation on metropolitan areas in the U.S. in the 20th century. Using a slew of tools, including tax exemptions for prejudiced institutions, subsidies for real estate developers who created white-only suburbs, public housing that severed racially mixed communities, and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods, governments created the racially divided residential landscape still so evident in the country today and which in itself, perpetuated the deep structural inequities and injustices of slavery itself.