Have you heard of Juneteenth?
I will admit that I didn’t learn that June 19th was recognized as a special day called Juneteenth until I was in college. Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865, the day that the abolition of slavery was announced in Texas, and is also recognized as a celebration of the end of slavery in the Confederate South. All over the United States, Juneteenth is still celebrated as an important day in our nation’s history.
You may also enjoy these Children’s Books About the Underground Railroad!
Because the freedom of oppressed people is something we should all celebrate, I went on the hunt for some books about Juneteenth I could read with my boys. We learned so much from these selections, and I think your family will enjoy them, too!
9 Children’s Books About Juneteenth
All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson
This book follows the story of the first Juneteenth, as seen through the eyes of a young girl experiencing the day in Texas. Johnson’s storytelling makes you feel as though you are right there with the narrator, and E.B. Lewis’s illustrations are the perfect companion to the story.
Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper
Young Mazie is tired of hearing “no” from her parents. As she sits with her father and learns more about Juneteenth, she gains perspective about what freedom means, and why it is so important. This gentle story is a great one to read with older or younger children, and it shows why recognizing Juneteenth is meaningful for so many families.
Juneteenth by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Drew Nelson
This early reader paints a picture of what life was like in Texas on that fateful June day in 1865. The story is simple enough for beginners to manage, but also presents plenty of great information that will give children a complete picture of the holiday. This would be an excellent choice for a classroom or homeschool unit!
Freedom’s Gifts: A Juneteenth Story by Valerie Wesley
Set in 1943, this book tells the story of two cousins. June is a Texan who loves to celebrate Juneteenth every year, but her cousin Lillie from New York City makes fun of the holiday. It isn’t until the girls talk with Aunt Marshall, a former enslaved person, that Lillie begins to understand why freedom is so important. This story contrasts slavery with segregation, and shows that even as we celebrate freedom, we still have strides to make toward equality.
Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford
Cassandra has moved with her parents back to their home state of Texas. She’s never heard of Juneteenth before, but as she experiences this celebration of freedom for the first time, she starts to understand why it’s so special. I loved the truly festive feel this book has; both the text and Yvonne Buchanan’s illustrations are uplifting and joyful.
Opal Lee and What it Means to be Free: the True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth by Alice Faye Duncan
Growing up, Opal Lee always looked forward to celebrating Juneteenth every year. However, she saw and experienced many things in her Texas town that made her see that Black people still weren’t as free as others. A personal experience of racism led Opal on a journey to have the history of Juneteenth recognized and preserved, so that our nation can learn from its history and not repeat it.
I recommend reading this powerful picture book with kids ages 5 and up.
What is Juneteenth? by Kirsti Jewel
The folks at Who HQ have put together an engaging nonfiction that will teach middle grade readers all about Juneteenth. This book covers the history of the holiday and how it has been celebrated over the years, including its journey to becoming a national holiday. It’s also full of great illustrations and photos.
This book is a great introduction to Juneteenth for kids ages 8 and up, but I think adults will learn a lot from this book, too!
Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle
This lovely poem sets to verse the history of Juneteenth, from its origin to today. The powerful words capture the pain and injustice of slavery in America, and the passion and heart wrapped into Juneteenth and all it stands for.
I recommend reading this book with kids ages 6 and up.
The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah L. Agostini
This attractive, easy-to-understand picture book tells the history of Juneteenth, from its origins in Texas to its celebration as a national holiday in the United States. It also helps readers understand just why it took so long for the news of slavery ending to reach enslaved people after the end of the Civil War. It’s a great introduction to Juneteenth for young and old, alike!
I recommend sharing this book with readers ages 5 and up.
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