Juneteenth has been a longstanding celebration of Black independence and culture in America, commemorating the freeing of the last slaves in Texas. It often is commemorated by parades, cookouts, remembrance of history, and shows of art and culture. On June 17, 2021 President Biden officially made Juneteenth a federal holiday, but there is far more to know about the day and what it represents than an extra day of vacation. Here are six books to help you learn more about the culture and history of the holiday, and the victims of slavery that it remembers:
Author: Hanif Abdurraqib
Why you should read it: Renown for his beautiful prose, Hanif Abdurraqib has woven an incredible criticism on how the influence Black culture and experience has shaped American art and culture, despite the United States' rejection of the Black experience.
Author: Austin Channing Brown
Why you should read it: In a world where “diversity” is a sought-after buzzword, Brown explores what this truly means, and how often it fails to capture what is truly needed in our society. In her beautiful reflection, Brown ties together her Blackness, her femininity, and her Christianity, and how it all weaves together for a greater understanding of social justice.
Author: Ralph Ellison
Why you should read it: Originally published anonymously to match the nameless narrator, Invisible Man is a critically acclaimed account of blackness, politics, and coming of age. After writing the book, Ellison was the first African American author to win the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.
Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk about Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation
Author: Ira Berlin
Why you should read it: Set in the 1930s, this book collects thousands of oral histories and firsthand accounts of slavery, offering vivid preservation of history. Not just the book tells the story though, as the audio that accompanies the book is the only known audio recordings of those who experienced slavery themselves.
Author: Annette Gordon-Reed
Why you should read it: Many years and stories of history are brought together to tell the story of the origins of Juneteenth, and its evolution of celebration throughout the last century. Through strong research and personal reflection, Gordon-Reed balances telling the celebration of history with the weight of the work left to do in America.
Author: Stephanie Camp
Why you should read it: Through an insightful and nuanced look at history, Camp tells the stories of the resistance of the women of slavery, and their resilient fight for protest and dignity throughout the inhumanity of slavery.