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Celebrate Juneteenth With These Books

Called other names such as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, Juneteenth is the commemoration of June 19, 1865, the day that the last African American slaves were emancipated in Texas. It is a day to honor Black history and culture, while also acknowledging how much progress is left to achieve. Since 2021, Juneteenth has been recognized as a national holiday. While it’s become more well-known in the last couple of years, there are still a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the history and importance of Juneteenth. To help fill in those gaps, we put together a short list of books that help expose others to the essential and informative black stories out there that you can read this month.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

This 1963 piece of literature is an essential read because of its impact. This essay collection from James Baldwin came out amidst the Civil Rights Movement and explored race relations in America. It was a very personal work that was a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice.

We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This nonfiction book explores the tragic echoes of history after the first black president was elected with backlash and the election that followed suit. The phrase, "We were eight years in power" was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. This book draws comparisons between the past and present in a very engaging way.

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

Diving into the history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning is fast-paced and well-researched. Using the lives of five major American intellectuals, readers are given a look at debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and anti-racists over the course of history. In this exploration, she identifies tools to expose and change racist ideals.

Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America by W. Caleb McDaniel

Following an enslaved woman’s fight for justice, Sweet Taste of Liberty is a compelling account of Henrietta Wood’s legal fight for restitution after being illegally forced back into slavery after being freed. It’s an extraordinary read that captures her triumph and her struggles to get that justice.

Black Women Will Save the World: An Anthem by April Ryan

This book is an essential read because it highlights the contributions of black women for the roles they’ve played over history, usually to little or no credit. Through relaying historical events, the book looks at women from all different backgrounds as they work to change the world even if it means stepping out of their “place.”

Four Hundred Souls by Ibram X. Kendi

It’s not easy to take such a vast history and turn it into such a powerful anthology, but Ibram X. Kendi does it expertly. Featuring 90 black scholars, activists, journalists, and historians, the book gives a chronological account of four hundred years of Black America including The Jim Crow Laws, The Trump Presidency, and he Black Lives Matter movement. This ambitious collection is a great Juneteenth read.

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

This bestseller is one you’ll find on many recommendation lists, including one by former President Barack Obama. Pulitzer prize winning writer Isabel Wilkerson interviewed over a thousand people to help put this book together about the decades-long migration of Black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. It’s incredibly researched, full of heart, and - despite only coming out in 2011 - is considered a classic.

Light for the World to See: A Thousand Words on Race and Hope by Kwame Alexander

If you’re looking for something short but impactful, look no further than Light for the World to See. In just 1,000 words, Alexander takes readers on an emotional and visceral ride through racism and oppression in America through poetry. By the end, it highlights resilience and hope. This is a great read if you’re not usually much of a reader, but you would still like to educate yourself this Juneteenth.

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

Written in essay format, On Juneteenth goes into the details of the long journey to Juneteenth, setting facts straight about history compared to what was taught in schools and reminding readers that the fight for equality is still ongoing. Reed’s book combines personal anecdotes with poignant facts to explore the integral role African Americans played in Texas history. If you only take one book from this recommendation list to learn more about the holiday, make it On Juneteenth.

All these recommendations are informative and impactful reads, but if you still want more, we encourage you to browse the collections of the following Black-owned publishing houses.

Black Classic Press

Third World Press Foundation

Kensington Publishing Corp.

Today, we uplift the stories that celebrate freedom, write earnestly about the Black experience, and recognize the continued work that needs to be done by society to continue toward equality. We hope you found this list informative and that you found a new book to check out for Juneteenth.

Compiled by Savage Content

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