Books & Beyond

Juneteenth: Honoring Black History and Culture with Picture Books

By Lisa T.
June 15, 2022

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.

Free At Last: A Juneteeth Poem/ written by Sojourner Rolle; illustrated by Alex Bostic.
This is an ode to the strength of Black Americans and a call to remember and honor a holiday whose importance reverberates far beyond the borders of Texas.

Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: the True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth / written by Alice Faye Duncan.
Growing up in Texas, Opal knew the history of Juneteenth, but she soon discovered that most Americans had never heard of the holiday that represents the nation’s creed of “freedom for all.”

Juneteenth:Our Day of Freedom / written by Sharon Dennis Wyeth
Some call it Freedom Day; some call it Emancipation Day; some call it Juneteenth. Learn more about this important holiday that celebrates the end of chattel slavery in the United States in this Step 3 History Reader.

What Is Juneteenth? / written by Kirsti Jewel
Author Kirsti Jewel shares stories from Juneteenth celebrations, both past and present, and chronicles the history that led to the creation of this joyous day.

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


All Different Now / 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.

Box : Henry Brown Mails himself to Freedom / Carole Boston Weatherford ; illustrated by Michele Wood.
Henry Brown, an enslaved man, escaped from Virginia by having himself enclosed in a wooden box and shipped to freedom in Philadelphia.

Juneetenth for Mazie / Floyd Cooper
Mazie wants the freedom to stay up late, but her father explains what freedom really means in the story of Juneteenth, and how her ancestors celebrated their true freedom.

Freedom in Congo Square / 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. 

The Bell Rang / James E. Ransome.
A young enslaved girl witnesses the heartbreak and hopefulness of her family and their plantation community when her brother escapes for freedom.

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

Unspeakable: the Tulsa Race Massacre / Carole Boston Weatherford ; illustrated by Floyd Cooper.
A powerful look at the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our nation’s history

Sing a Song: How “Lift Every Voice and Sing” Inspired Generations / Kelly starling Lyons; illustrated by Keith Mallett
A story about the generations of families who gained hope and strength from the song’s inspiring words.

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.

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!

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. 

For more children’s books by Black creators visit our blog post,  Black Stories: Picture Books