Children's Books That Celebrate & Bring Awareness to Juneteenth

Juneteenth National Independence Day is June 19th!

By Tessa D'Ippolito, Publisher June 6, 2024

We love using books to celebrate and bring awareness to things that may be new to our children. Below is a list of the books we will be reading to explain the meaning of Juneteenth to our toddlers and discuss the importance of human beings having freedom in their day to day lives.

19th of June is Juneteenth! Also known as Juneteenth Freedom Day. Juneteenth marks the abolition of slavery in Texas, and the emancipation of enslaved African Americans throughout the Confederate South. On June 19th 1865 the Union soldiers brought the news to Texas that the war had ended and the slaves were now free. This was more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued. It was a long fight for freedom, and the fight for equality still continues today.

In 2021, Juneteenth became a federal holiday. One of the best ways to honor this date is to educate our children so they understand the history of Juneteenth and other crucial moments in Black history, and why they're still important today. Growing up in Ohio, Juneteenth wasn't a part of our curriculum or observed holidays. I have spent time over the years educating myself on the blind spots of my Midwestern curriculum and community, in hopes to provide a better education for my children. I continue to look for ways to learn and do more in my community.

The Story of Juneteenth

By Dorena Williamson. Illustrated by Markia Jenai

About the book: What are the origins of America’s newest national holiday? With simple, age-appropriate language and colorful illustrations, this little board book introduces children to the events of June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform the people of Texas that all enslaved people were declared free and the Civil War had ended. The book also connects those events to today’s celebrations.

Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth

By Alice Faye Duncan. Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo

About the book: 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 twelve years old, an angry crowd burned down her brand-new home. This wasn't freedom at all. She had to do something! But could one person’s voice make a difference? Could Opal bring about national recognition of Juneteenth? Follow Opal Lee as she fights to improve the future by honoring the past.

Juneteenth for Mazie

By Floyd Cooper

About the book: 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 Juneteenth.

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom

By Angela Johnson. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis

About the book: Through the eyes of one little girl, All Different Now tells the story of the first Juneteenth, the day freedom finally came to the last of the slaves in the South. Since then, the observance of June 19 as African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. This stunning picture book includes notes from the author and illustrator, a timeline of important dates, and a glossary of relevant terms.

The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States

By Alliah L. Agostini. Ilustrated by Sawyer Cloud

About the book: With colorful illustrations and a timeline, this introductory history of Juneteenth for kids details the evolution of the holiday commemorating the date the enslaved people of Texas first learned of their freedom.

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