Celebrating Juneteenth

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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:

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:

Watch BTW for updates on store happenings, Juneteenth celebrations, and more to come.