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Books & Beyond

Juneteenth: Honoring Black History and Culture with Picture books

By Lisa T.
June 18, 2020

The Juneteenth holiday  (a portmanteau of June and nineteen) commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union general Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston, Texas, that all previously enslaved people were free — finally freeing slaves in Texas over two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.  The Juneteenth holiday is a time to celebrate as well as a time to examine our history, to reflect on the legacy of slavery, and to look toward the future.  

Here are some picture books by Black authors and artists that celebrate African American culture, resistance and achievement.  We’ve heard from many parents that they are interested in talking to their kids about race and racism.  We hope you will find a title to encourage learning and reflection in your family.

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Poetry and illustrations create a remarkable ode to Black American experience, history, genius and everyday struggle. 

All Different Now by Angela Johnson
In 1865, members of a family start their day enslaved, working in a Texas cotton field, and end it celebrating their freedom on what came to be known as Juneteenth.

 Let’s Clap, Jump, sing, & shout; Dance, Spin, and Turn it out! : Games, Songs, and Stories from an African American Childhood collected by Patricia C. McKissack. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
A collection of traditional African American hand claps, songs, games and stories.

Freedom over Me by Ashley BryanThe individual names, lives and dreams of enslaved people are juxtaposed with original slave auction and plantation estate documents.

Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson. Illustrated by Frank Morrison
Tells the story of children and teenagers who marched against segregation in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie
In Congo Square in New Orleans on Sunday afternoons enslaved people were able to congregate to sing, dance, and play music. 

Voices of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford. illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Poems and spirituals inspired by the life and work of civil rights advocate Fannie Lou Hamer.

Before She was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome. Illustrated by James E. Ransome
A beautifully illustrated biography in verse of Harriet Tubman. 

Melana’s Jubilee: The Story of a Fresh Start by Zetta Elliott
Melena makes a fresh start, and shares the song in her heart with her family and friends.

I, too, am America by Langston Hughes. Illustrated by Bryan Collier
This iconic poem highlights the courage and dignity of the African American Pullman porters in the early twentieth century.

Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins and illustrated by Bryan Collier
This poem celebrates black children and seeks to inspire children to dream big!

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