Books to Commemorate Freedom on this important day in history!
Juneteenth commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States.
On June 19th, 1865 federal troops arrived in Galveston, TX to take control of the state and ensure all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival was a full two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
Juneteenth celebrates this momentous day and is finally a federal holiday! In the spirit of celebration, I’ve put together a Juneteenth Book List below. Happy Reading!
Juneteenth Book List
On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed
The essential, sweeping story of Juneteenth’s integral importance to American history, as told by a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and Texas native.
Weaving together American history, dramatic family chronicle, and searing episodes of memoir, Annette Gordon-Reed’s On Juneteenth provides a historian’s view of the country’s long road to Juneteenth, recounting both its origins in Texas and the enormous hardships that African-Americans have endured in the century since, from Reconstruction through Jim Crow and beyond. All too aware of the stories of cowboys, ranchers, and oilmen that have long dominated the lore of the Lone Star State, Gordon-Reed―herself a Texas native and the descendant of enslaved people brought to Texas as early as the 1820s―forges a new and profoundly truthful narrative of her home state, with implications for us all.
Juneteenth: A Novel by Ralph Ellison
The radiant, posthumous second novel by the visionary author of Invisible Man.
In Washington, D.C., in the 1950s, Adam Sunraider, a race-baiting senator from New England, is mortally wounded by an assassin’s bullet while making a speech on the Senate floor. To the shock of all who think they know him, Sunraider calls out from his deathbed for Alonzo Hickman, an old black minister, to be brought to his side. The reverend is summoned; the two are left alone. “Tell me what happened while there’s still time,” demands the dying Sunraider.
Out of their conversation, and the inner rhythms of memories whose weight has been borne in silence for many long years, a story emerges. Senator Sunraider, once known as Bliss, was raised by Reverend Hickman in a black community steeped in religion and music (not unlike Ralph Ellison’s own childhood home) and was brought up to be a preaching prodigy in a joyful black Baptist ministry that traveled throughout the South and the Southwest. Together one last time, the two men retrace the course of their shared life in an “anguished attempt,” Ellison once put it, “to arrive at the true shape and substance of a sundered past and its meaning.” In the end, the two men confront their most painful memories, memories that hold the key to understanding the mysteries of kinship and race that bind them, and to the senator’s confronting how deeply estranged he had become from his true identity.
Reconstruction by Eric Foner
The prize-winning classic work on the post-Civil War period that shaped modern America.
Eric Foner’s “masterful treatment of one of the most complex periods of American history” (New Republic) redefined how the post-Civil War period was viewed.
Reconstruction chronicles the way in which Americans—black and white—responded to the unprecedented changes unleashed by the war and the end of slavery. It addresses the ways in which the emancipated slaves’ quest for economic autonomy and equal citizenship shaped the political agenda of Reconstruction; the remodeling of Southern society and the place of planters, merchants, and small farmers within it; the evolution of racial attitudes and patterns of race relations; and the emergence of a national state possessing vastly expanded authority and committed, for a time, to the principle of equal rights for all Americans.
This “smart book of enormous strengths” (Boston Globe) remains the standard work on the wrenching post-Civil War period—an era whose legacy still reverberates in the United States today.
Envisioning Emancipation by Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer
The Emancipation Proclamation is one of the most important documents in American history. As we commemorate its 150th anniversary, what do we really know about those who experienced slavery?
In their pioneering book, Envisioning Emancipation, renowned photographic historian Deborah Willis and historian of slavery Barbara Krauthamer have amassed 150 photographs—some never before published—from the antebellum days of the 1850s through the New Deal era of the 1930s. The authors vividly display the seismic impact of emancipation on African Americans born before and after the Proclamation, providing a perspective on freedom and slavery and a way to understand the photos as documents of engagement, action, struggle, and aspiration.
Envisioning Emancipation illustrates what freedom looked like for black Americans in the Civil War era. From photos of the enslaved on plantations and African American soldiers and camp workers in the Union Army to Juneteenth celebrations, slave reunions, and portraits of black families and workers in the American South, the images in this book challenge perceptions of slavery. They show not only what the subjects emphasized about themselves but also the ways Americans of all colors and genders opposed slavery and marked its end.
Filled with powerful images of lives too often ignored or erased from historical records, Envisioning Emancipation provides a new perspective on American culture.