Juneteenth is a nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. While the Emancipation Proclamation, effective January 1, 1863, legally freed enslaved African Americans in Confederate states, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that some of the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, were informed by Union Army General Gordon Granger.
From 1865 until now, Juneteenth celebrations have been held in a variety of different ways. In 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas, where it is still an important widely-celebrated holiday, and for decades observance has grown in communities nationwide.
Today, Juneteenth can be celebrated through city-wide festivals and street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, and more. A number of cultural institutions in the United States hold exhibitions and events dedicated to Juneteenth’s history, and as a result of the pandemic, online events such as poetry readings have become more popular.
Additionally, here are some resources that give an in-depth look at the history of Juneteenth:
“Juneteenth, explained” (Vox, 2020)
- Read this for an in-depth overview of Juneteenth, beginning with the Confiscation Act of 1862, which “authorized Union troops to seize Confederate property.” This article outlines the gradual spread of freedom after the 13th Amendment was passed in 1864 (and later enacted by ratification in December 1865).
“Juneteenth: An American History Through Maps” (ARCGIS, 2017)
- This source takes a more visual approach, tracing the abolition of slavery through maps of the United States.
“Celebrating Juneteenth: A Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation” (NPR, 2020)
- A reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Here is just some of what bookstores have planned for Juneteenth, as well as the month of June, this year:
- MahoganyBooks in Washington, D.C. will be celebrating the opening of their second location.
- The Dock Bookshop in Fort Worth, Texas, is holding special events for the month of June.
- Comma Bookstore in Flint, Michigan, will hold a Juneteenth festival.
- Semicolon Bookstore in Chicago, Illinois, will be donating funds made in-store during the weekend of June 19 to Calculated Genius.
Recommended Reading from Allison Hill:
“It's not often that ABA recommends a specific title but On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed (Liverirght) is extraordinary and timely. Gordon-Reed's perspective as a Black woman, a Texan, and a Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian informs this history of Juneteenth that will deepen every reader's understanding of the significance of Juneteenth as well as racism in America. Gordon-Reed shares her own personal stories and history throughout the book in a beautifully woven and powerful narrative.”
Booksellers can also take a look at these reading lists:
- The Juneteenth Reading List (PRH)
- Juneteenth Reading List (Charis Books & More)
- 10 Books to Celebrate Juneteenth No Matter Your Age (Black & Bookish)
- Juneteenth: A Reading List (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh)
- A Juneteenth Reading List by Local Authors You Need to Know (Brazos Bookstore)
- Juneteenth & 100 years of the Tulsa Race Massacre (Detroit Book City)
Watch BTW for updates on store happenings, Juneteenth celebrations, and more to come.