Juneteenth Reading List | NIU Newsroom

Robert Ridinger

Robert Ridinger

compiled by Robert Ridinger,
NIU University Libraries, [email protected]


“Juneteenth at Comanche Crossing,” by Doris Hollis Pemberton | Austin, Texas | Eakin Publications, c1983.1996

“Juneteenth Texas: Essays in African-American Folklore,” by Francis Edward Abernethy | Denton, Texas | University of North Texas Press, 1966.

“Juneteenth: Ring the Bell of Freedom,” by Lula Briggs Galloway [edited by Lula Briggs Galloway, Audrey Beatty, 1st ed. (Saginaw, Mich.) ] | National Association of Juneteenth Lineage, c1998

“Juneteenth! Celebrating Freedom in Texas,” by Anna Pearl Barrett | Austin, Texas | Eakin Press, c1999.

The author recalls her childhood in Galveston, Texas, describing the town’s celebration of Juneteenth, in honor of the day Texas granted its African slaves freedom.

“Island of Color: Where Juneteenth Started,” by Izola Ethel Fedford Colllins | Bloomington, Ind. | AuthorHouse, 2004.

On this island called Galveston, Texas, African Americans have a unique position in the history of the world. Natives of this city, and incoming residents, who were people of color, were the pioneers of much of the civilization that occurred in this part of the world. “Juneteenth” has become a term used by persons all over the nation who recognize the validity of the term now synonymous with freedom of the former black-skinned slaves. This term comes from the fact that, in Galveston, Texas, General Granger arrived by ship with orders that were read to the public at Ashton Villa on June 19, 1865. He arrived in the harbor on June 17, 1865, and the news leaked out from the deckhands on that date. But the dates are both worthy of the title “Juneteenth,” which is the way the former slaves passed down the news to their progeny. This news came from the official document called the Emancipation Proclamation, which was a law signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, and sent to the southern states involved in the Confederacy. Texas was the first of these states to receive this law, and Galveston was the entry port, and therefore had the distinction of being the first place to embrace the freedom of persons of color in the southern part of the new United States of America. There were free men and women of color in Galveston before this announcement was made, so the progress of the city toward racial harmony was already underway. Pioneers of all kinds of institutions and businesses came from Galveston. It is no accident that Galveston has been a city of “firsts.” The titles of “first” have been proven for the state of Texas, because these were recorded and documented in many journals and publications. Some visionaries of African descent have been recorded by name, but since the freed persons of color usually could not read or write (they were forbidden to learn to read or write in slavery), there is little written from their perspective. It is the purpose of this book to reveal what was written by a man of color, my grandfather, who came to Galveston with his family as a small child, immediately after freedom was declared. His words are proven to be true by later documentation of official sources in the city. In addition, recorded words of interviews with numbers of citizens who were alive when this book was begun have been used and preserved on audio tapes. Quite a few persons who contributed to this book were African Americans who were imported to Galveston for the sole purpose of educating its segregated citizens in their churches and schools.

“General Gordon Granger: The Savior of Chickamauga and the Man behind ‘Juneteenth,’ ” by Robert C. Conner | Casemate | 2013

This is the first full-length biography of the Civil War general who saved the Union Army from catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga and went on to play major roles in the Chattanooga and Mobile campaigns. Immediately after the war, as commander of U.S. troops in Texas, his actions sparked the “Juneteenth” celebrations of slavery’s end, which continue to this day.

“Hidden Black History: From Juneteenth to Redlining,” by Amanda Green Jackson | Minneapolis, Minn. | Lerner Publications, 2021

Many important moments in history have not been taught in schools or explored in the mainstream media. These events often include people of color and involve Black history. This “whitewashing” of history, intentional or not, puts all Americans at a disadvantage. Learn about Black history moments that shaped America, from the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia in 1619 to the Freedom Summer of 1964 and read about efforts to reshape how we teach Black history in schools in the 21st century.

“On Juneteenth,” by Annette Gordon-Reid | New York | Liveright, 2021

“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 American history, dramatic family chronicle, and searing episodes of memoir, Annette Gordon-Reed, the descendant of enslaved people brought to Texas in the 1850s, recounts the origins of Juneteenth and explores the legacies of the holiday that remain with us. From the earliest presence of black people in Texas-in the 1500s, well before enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown-to the day in Galveston on June 19, 1865, when General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery, Gordon-Reed’s insightful and inspiring essays present the saga of a “frontier” peopled by Native Americans, Anglos, Tejanos and Blacks that became a slaveholder’s republic. Reworking the “Alamo” framework, Gordon-Reed shows that the slave-and race-based economy not only defined this fractious era of Texas independence, but precipitated the Mexican-American War and the resulting Civil War. A commemoration of Juneteenth and the fraught legacies of slavery that still persist, “On Juneteenth” is stark reminder that the fight for equality is ongoing.

“Opal Lee and What It Means to be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth,” by Alice Faye Duncan; illustrations by Keturah A. Bobo | Nashville, Tenn. | Thomas Nelson, 2021

The true story of Black activist Opal Lee and her vision of Juneteenth as a holiday for everyone celebrates Black joy and inspires children to see their dreams blossom. Growing up in Texas, Opal knew the history of Juneteenth, but she soon discovered that many Americans had never heard of the holiday that represents the nation’s creed of “freedom for all.” Every year, Opal looked forward to the Juneteenth picnic – a drumming, dancing, delicious party. She knew from Granddaddy Zak’s stories that Juneteenth celebrated the day the freedom news of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation finally sailed into Texas in 1865, over two years after the president had declared it! But Opal didn’t always see freedom in her Texas town. Then one Juneteenth day, when Opal was 12, an angry crowd burned down her brand new home. This was not freedom at all. She had to do something! Opal Lee spent the rest of her life speaking up for equality and unity. She became a teacher, a charity worker and a community leader. At the age of 89, she walked from Fort Worth, Texas to Washington, D.C., to gain national recognition for Juneteenth. She was present at the signing of the proclamation by President Joseph Biden in June 2021 that made Juneteenth a national federal holiday and fulfilled her dream.

Children’s Books

“Let’s Pretend: Mae Dee and her Family join the Juneteenth Celebration,” the third in a series of stories by Ada DeBlanc Simond; drawings by Sarochin Shannon | Austin, Texas | Stevenson Press, c1978.

During the early 1900s, a young Black girl and her family participate in the annual Emancipation celebration in Austin, Texas.

“The Day God Came,” by T. Berry; illustrated by Paul Hoffman | Winston-Derek, 1993.

A book about freedom, faith and how one Black woman kept her family from losing hope during their years in bondage.

“Juneteenth Jamboree,” by Carole Boston Weatherford and Yvonne Buchanan | New York | Lee & Low Books, c1995.

Cassandra and her family have moved to her parents’ hometown in Texas, but it doesn’t feel like home to Cassandra until she experiences Juneteenth, a Texas tradition celebrating the end of slavery.

“African-American Holidays,” by Faith Winchester | Bridgestone Books, c1996.

“Freedom’s Gifts: A Juneteenth Story,” by Valerie Wesley; illustrated by Sharon Wilson | Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, c1997.

Juneteenth – the day Texan slaves found out they had been freed, two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation – is June’s favorite holiday. This year, though, her cousin Lillie will be there for the Juneteenth picnic. That could spoil everything. Lillie is used to celebrating the Fourth of July, like everyone else, and has no interest in Southern traditions. But Aunt Marshall, the girls’ great-great-aunt, knows the significance of Juneteenth – she was about June’s age on June 19, 1865, when the celebration began in Texas – and she just may be able to convince Lillie that Juneteenth is not a dumb old slave holiday, but a part of her heritage, and the first of many of freedom’s gifts.

“Juneteenth Freedom Day,” by Muriel Branch Miller | New York | Cobblehill Books, 1998.

Provides the story of how this holiday, marking the Emancipation Proclamation, spontaneously began on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, and grew from there into a nationwide celebration of freedom among African Americans.

“Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom,” by Charles A. Taylor with illustrations by Charles A. Taylor II | Greensboro, N.C. | Open Hand Publishing, c2002.

“Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom” expresses the jubilation that occurred June 19, 1865 when African American people in Texas were the last to be freed from the horrors of U.S. slavery, over two months after the end of the Civil War and two-and-a-half years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

“Juneteenth: A Day to Celebrate Freedom from Slavery,” by Angela Leeper | Enslow, 2003

On June 19, 1865, slaves in Texas were formally notified that they had been emancipated or given their freedom. This day became an annual holiday known as Juneteenth, and it is celebrated today with food, fireworks and community and family parties that commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. Author Angela Leeper explains the history of slavery from the first arrival in Jamestown in 1619 to the end of the Civil War and describes Juneteenth celebrations held today all across the country. Full-color photographs and a craft section help the reader understand more about Juneteenth, and why all Americans should celebrate freedom

“Juneteenth Day,” by Denise M. Jordan | Heinemann Library, 2003

Each book in the Holiday Histories series describes one of America’s holidays for very young readers by exploring the history of each one and showing the reasons why it is important. In this particular volume, Denise M. Jordan explains how Juneteenth Day is the oldest African American holiday that celebrates the very last day of slavery in the United States. Although Abraham Lincoln ordered in the Emancipation Proclamation that all slaves were to be freed on January 1, 1863, the slaves in Texas were not told until June 19, 1865. Jordan explains how it was against the law to teach slaves how to read and write, which resulted in them pronouncing some words differently, why is how during the telling and retelling of the last days of slavery June 19 became Juneteenth. This book provides a summary of slavery in the United States, covering how the argument over slavery eventually started the Civil War. But most of the book focuses on how the rumors of freedom and the presence of Union troops in Texas finally resulted in Union General Gordon Granger reading an order declaring “all slaves are free.” The last part of the book looks at how freedom was celebrated both then and now, as the celebrations that started in the churches eventually became big parades in cities like Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth. Each page of this book contains a paragraph of simple text and either a historic illustration or contemporary photograph. The back of the book includes a list of important dates related to the topic of Juneteenth, from 1860 when Lincoln was elected president to 1994 when a movement started to make Juneteenth Day a national holiday. There is also a glossary of key words and a trio of books where very young readers can read more about the holiday. Other books in the series look at not only the “main” holidays like Halloween, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving Day, but the ones that do not always get mentioned like Cinco de Mayo and Columbus Day. This is a nice series of books for introducing the holidays to younger students

“Juneteenth: Celebrating the End of Slavery,” by Janey Levy, 1st ed. | New York | Rosen Pub. Group, 2003.

Explores the roots of the Juneteenth holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States

“Juneteenth,” by Natalie M. Rosinsky | Compass Point Books, 2005

Describes how the holiday of Juneteenth began and discusses its traditions, symbols, how the holiday has changed and how it is observed today.

“Juneteenth,” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Drew Nelson, illustrations by Mark Schroder | Millbrook Press, 2006

June 19, 1865, began as another hot day in Texas. Enslaved African Americans worked in fields, in barns and in the homes of the white people who owned them. Then a message arrived. Freedom! Slavery had ended! The Civil War had actually ended in April. It took two months for word to reach Texas. Still the joy of that amazing day has never been forgotten. Every year, people all over the United States come together June 19 to celebrate the end of slavery. Join in the celebration of Juneteenth, a day to remember and honor freedom for all people.

“Come Juneteenth,” by Ann Rinaldi | Orlando, Florida | Harcourt, 2007.

Sis Goose is a beloved member of Luli’s family, even though she was born a slave. But the family is harboring a terrible secret. And when Union soldiers arrive on their Texas plantation to announce that slaves have been declared free for nearly two years, Sis Goose is horrified to learn that the people she called family have lied to her for so long. She runs away – but her newly found freedom has tragic consequences.

“Juneteenth: Jubilee for Freedom,” by June Preszler | Capstone Press, 2007

Describes the history and meaning of the holiday known as Juneteenth, and how it is celebrated today.

“Juneteenth,” by Denise M. Jordan, 2nd ed. | Chicago | Heinemann Library, c2008.

It is June 19 and you see a parade with music and dancing. But do you know why? It is Juneteenth, of course!

“Juneteenth,” by Robin Nelson | Lerner Publications Co., 2010

Examines the history of Juneteenth and describes some of the ways the holiday is celebrated.

“Juneteenth,” by Lynn Peppas | Crabtree Pub. Co., 2010

Every year on June 19, people of all backgrounds celebrate the day that African Americans were freed from slavery in the United States. The occasion is marked by picnics and even rodeos that celebrate famous Black cowboys!

“Juneteenth,” by Julie Murray | ABDO Pub., 2012

Easy-to-read text paired with colorful photos and informative captions introduces readers to a meaningful holiday, Juneteenth. Readers will learn the history of Juneteenth, including slavery in the United States, the American Civil War and the birth of Juneteenth as a Texas state holiday.

“All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom,” by Angela Johnson; illustrated by Earl B. Lewis | New York | Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014.

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.

“Journey to Galveston,” by Melodie A. Cuate | Lubbock, Texas | Texas Tech University Press, 2014

A struggle over a bowl of popcorn begins another time-traveling adventure for Nick, Jackie and Hannah. When Mr. Barrington’s trunk magically appears on the Taylors’ kitchen table, a family of slaves steps out, followed by a snapping dog. Jackie is mistaken for an escaped slave and kidnapped by a hideous man. Trying to save her, Hannah and Nick are transported back to June 1865 only to discover that even though the Civil War has ended months before, many Texas plantation owners still own slaves. Befriended by twins Sam and Lily, the time travelers witness horrific truths of plantation life: whippings, beatings, and families being torn apart. After Lily is sold to another plantation in Galveston, they devise with Sam a plan to rescue her. Their race against time takes them through a spooky graveyard and over a river teeming with alligators, with vicious hounds in close pursuit. With the absorbing pace and historic detail that Mr. Barrington’s Mysterious Trunk fans have come to expect, Cuate leads her protagonists, and her young readers, to the first Juneteenth.

“Juneteenth for Mazie,” by Floyd Cooper | Capstone Young Readers, a Capstone imprint, 2015

Mazie is ready to celebrate liberty. She is ready to celebrate freedom. She is ready to celebrate a great day in American history – the day her ancestors were no longer slaves. Mazie remembers the struggles and the triumph, as she gets ready to celebrate

“The Story of Juneteenth: An Interactive History Adventure,” by Steven Otfinoski | Capstone Press, a Capstone imprint, 2015

The Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War have brought an official end to slavery, yet some Southern slave owners are refusing to comply. The road to freedom is still long and hard for many African Americans, but you’re not giving up. Will you: Overcome obstacles as you make your way north from Texas, looking to begin a new life of freedom? Seek out your family, from whom you were separated as a child, after emancipation? Fight back when you take work as an apprentice but find that you’re still treated as a slave? YOU CHOOSE offers multiple perspectives on history, supporting Common Core reading standards and providing readers a front-row seat to the past.

“The History of Juneteenth,” by Maximilian Smith | Gareth Stevens Pub., 2016

Juneteenth is usually celebrated June 19. It honors the day in 1865 when Union troops swept into Galveston, Texas, and told the elated slaves there that they were free. This accessible volume delves into the American Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation and the events that led to this special holiday for African Americans and everyone who celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. Carefully chosen photographs reflect this special commemoration, both in the past and today.

“Juneteenth,” by R.J. Bailey | Bullfrog Books, 2017

A preschool and up nonfiction book about the African American holiday of Juneteenth when the slaves in Texas found out they were free including how to celebrate and the meaning of the holiday.

“Juneteenth,” by Joanna Ponto and Angela Leeper | Enslow Publishing, 2017

This book is a great overview of the history of Juneteenth for reading aloud to kids in lower- and mid-elementary. It has a few pictures but is more text-heavy. It has enough background on slavery in the U.S. to help explain the importance of the holiday even for kids who haven’t heard much of the history before. It also explains current Juneteenth celebrations around the nation and includes a recipe for corn bread and a craft idea.

“Let’s celebrate Emancipation Day & Juneteenth,” by Barbara deRubertis | Kane Press, 2018

In the 1800s, abolitionists like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth fought for freedom from slavery for all African Americans. They fought with speeches, songs, newspapers, and even with daring rescue missions! Every year on both Emancipation Day and Juneteenth we honor and continue their fight for freedom and equality. Holidays & Heroes brings to life the people whose holidays we celebrate throughout the year. Enriched with colorful historical images, books in this series will engage children in the stories behind our holidays and the people they honor.

“Juneteenth,” by Rachel Grack | Bellwether Media, 2019

On June 19, 1865 – two years after the Emancipation Proclamation – Galveston, Texas, became the last place in the country to learn the slaves were free. Today, Juneteenth is a joyful occasion with parades, speeches, music and more! This engaging book teaches the fascinating origins and traditions of Juneteenth, honoring the freedom of African Americans.

“The Story behind Juneteenth,” by Jack Reader | PowerKids Press, 2020

Juneteenth, which is celebrated each year on June 19, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. This holiday began in 1865, more than two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. News spread much slower back then, and when slaves in Texas finally learned of their freedom, the holiday was born. In this book, readers are given an in-depth look at the history of Juneteenth, including the events leading up to its creation. Readers will love learning about how this important moment in U.S. history is celebrated each year.

“Juneteenth,” by Lisa A. Crayton | North Mankato, Minnesota | Pebble, 2021.

Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. Across the country, people observe the day with speeches, poetry readings, festivals, picnics, street fairs, and family reunions. It is a day for people to come together and continue working toward equality. Readers will discover how a shared holiday can have multiple traditions and be celebrated in all sorts of ways – provided by publisher.

“Juneteenth,” by Emily Dolbear | The Child’s World, 2021

Learn the basics about Juneteenth, also called Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, and how the holiday celebrates the emancipation of slaves in the United States. Additional features include detailed captions and sidebars, critical-thinking questions, a phonetic glossary, an index and sources for further research.

“Celebrating Juneteenth,” by Jody Jensen Shaffer and Kathleen Petelinsek | Mankato | The Child’s World, 2021.

Juneteenth, also called Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. Readers will discover the history behind the day and find out ways to celebrate on their own. Additional features to aid comprehension include activities and poetry, informative sidebars, a table of contents, a phonetic glossary, sources for further research, an index and an introduction to the author and illustrator.