Kids' Books to Celebrate Juneteenth

By Gwen Glazer, Librarian
June 18, 2019

On June 19, 1865—more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation—a general in the Union Army finally told the people of Galveston, Texas, that slavery had ended. The holiday of Juneteenth commemorates that date in particular, and, more generally, freedom from slavery after the Civil War. (Learn more about Juneteenth's history and traditions via NYPL's online resources!)

Juneteenth has inspired literature for adults, including Ralph Ellison's classic novel of the same name, but there are also great books to introduce the holiday's stories and traditions to the youngest readers.

Picture books

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, art by E.B. Lewis
This story, written in free-verse poetry, begins with one Texas family learning about their freedom, leaving the sweltering cotton fields, and going to celebrate with a whole community on a cool beach at night. Bonus points for beautiful watercolor illustrations and extra historical information at the end.
 

Juneteenth for Maizie by Floyd Cooper
Maizie's father talks to her about the meaning of Juneteenth, telling her, "It's your turn to celebrate...and to remember."
 

Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford, art by Yvonne Buchanan
After moving to Texas, Cassandra and her family celebrate Juneteenth for the first time with food, friends, and summery fun.

Nonfiction

Juneteenth by Rachel Koestler-Grack
A new history of the celebration, written for early elementary-school readers.
 

Let's Celebrate Emancipation Day & Juneteenth by Barbara deRubertis
This history narrative, which includes archival photos and clear research, also includes information about the observance of DC Emancipation Day, which ended slavery in in Washington, D.C., in April 1862.
 

Juneteenth by Julie Murray
A straightforward look at the holiday's history and traditions.
 

For Older Kids

The Story of Juneteenth: An Interactive History Adventure by Steven Otfinoski
A choose-your-own-style story that allows kids to explore different paths through the history of the holiday.
 

Traditional African American Arts and Activities by Sonya Kimble-Ellis
Make a Juneteenth picnic basket! This craft book focuses on seasonal celebrations, as well as games and activities for any time of the year.

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Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you'd recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!