“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
~ General Order No. 3, Major General Gordon Granger, June 19, 1865
June 19 or “Juneteenth,” also known as Freedom Day, Independence Day, Emancipation Day and Juneteenth Independence Day is celebrated in honor of the announcement of the legal abolition of slavery in the U.S., specifically in Texas in 1865, and the overall emancipation of African-American citizens throughout the U.S. in 1863.
Juneteenth, a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteen”, is considered to be the oldest commemoration of the ending of slavery in the U.S. As of May 2013, 43 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or special day of observance. This observance has extended beyond the U.S., with celebrations occurring in other countries including Barbados, China, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Puerto Rico Spain and South Korea!
Below are several books I suggest that you may read and share with your young citizens of the world…I hope you enjoy learning more about Juneteenth as a holiday and its cultural significance globally!
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan
In this lovely story, Cassandra’s family has moved back to her parents’ home state of Texas. Although she misses all that she knew prior to her move, that feeling is quickly displaced when she participates in her first ever Juneteenth celebration! While this book may be lengthy for some, it reads well and the artwork of Buchanan is just beautifully engaging, from cover to cover.
Juneteenth (On My Own Holidays)
Written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Drew Nelson
Illustrated by Mark Schroder
A member of the “On My Own: Holiday Series”, this book does a wonderful job of explaining the historical origin of Juneteenth. It discusses how Africans were brought to The New World en masse in 1619 to work as slaves in perpetual bondage. President Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, which had freed enslaved persons of African descent in the states that seceded from the U.S., was to take effect on January 1, 1863. Slaves in the state of Texas did not learn of their freedom until two and one-half years later. The Nelsons appropriately set the scene for the arrival of Major General Gordon Granger and his regiment of Union soldiers on June 19, 1865.
Upon hearing “General Order No. 3”, many African-Americans were jubilant! Freedom had come and with it, people were overjoyed, angry, sorrowful, fearful and prayerful. That momentous day has been honored in Galveston since 1866 and has grown from local festivals to celebrations on an international scale. The Nelsons and Schroder do a fine job in capturing the energy of the emotions of that historic occasion.
Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom
Written by Charles A. Taylor
Geared to older children, this book includes historical documents, artwork and text that reflect the history behind the Juneteenth celebration. Taylor includes persons pivotal to not just this celebration but also to those in American history who fought to end the cruel system of slavery. These persons include Joseph Cinque of the Amistad mutiny, John Brown, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, General Ulysses S. Grant and President Abraham Lincoln. Taylor connects the past with the present, even detailing the work of individuals and organizations that have successfully fought to get Juneteenth recognized by their state governments as an official day of celebration.
Freedom’s Gifts: A Juneteenth Story
Written by Valerie Wesley
Illustrated by Sharon Wilson
This is a touching story spun by one of my favorite authors, Valerie Wesley. Set in Texas in June 1943, Wesley tells the story of two cousins, Lillie and June, living during segregation. Being from the North, Lillie feels that those who live in the South are “country” and the system of Jim Crow is degrading—she has no problem letting her cousin know as she feels. June, who has only known segregation, does not care for her cousin’s “uppity” demeanor, especially when she has begun to feel shame about her life in the South. However, it will be their elderly Aunt Marshall who will challenge their impressions of each other and themselves when she sits the young girls down and imparts to them the importance of family, sense of community, bravery and love.
I especially liked that Wesley not only illustrated the great significance of connections between generations but that she made Aunt Marshall a griot. Griot is a West African term and it means a historian and/or storyteller who utilizes prose, poetry and song as their mediums. Griots are integral in the Africana community, especially in Juneteenth celebrations. The illustrations by Wilson are precious accompaniments to Wesley’s text, which builds upon the true values of Juneteenth.
Traditional African American Arts and Activities
Written by Sonya Kimble-Ellis
What would a Juneteenth celebration be without activities?! Kimble-Ellis does excellent work in presenting activities and projects that are highly interesting, engaging and educational. This book is ideally used by adults, whether parents, formal educators or informal educators, as they can best guide the work to be completed with their young citizens of the world. The activities on Juneteenth are actually some of my favorite in Kimble-Ellis’ book!
Written by Ann Rinaldi
Author of juvenile historic fiction and narratives such as “Numbering All the Bones,” “The Red-Headed Princess,” “An Unlikely Friendship: A Novel of Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley,” and “Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons: The Story of Phillis Wheatley,” Rinaldi has a winner in this novel. Set in Texas in June 1865, the book centers on a young girl, Goose. Born into slavery, Goose feels loved by the Luli family who owns her. However, when General Gordon Granger and his regiment of Union soldiers arrive, not only with the news that slavery has ended, but that they will enforce the emancipation that was to have taken place over two years earlier, lives take a drastic turn! Feeling a flurry of emotions, especially that of betrayal, Goose runs away…but to what? What does freedom really mean? What will freedom cost?
Of course, Rinaldi has mastered storytelling and what would a Rinaldi novel be like without a terrible secret that the protagonist will discover…but will it be too late for Goose when she learns the truth? You will have to read it to find out!