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These Must

May 09, 2023May 09, 2023

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Also called Emancipation Day, Freedom Day or Jubilee Day, Juneteenth is the commemoration of June 19, 1865, the day enslaved African Americans in Galveston, TX, learned that they were free. Juneteenth became a national holiday in 2021, and since then, many have been looking to expand their knowledge on the holiday.

Whether you'd like to know more about Juneteenth, are interested in fictional stories from that time period or want a deeper understanding of the Black experience, we've got you covered with this list of the Best Juneteenth Books.

Our recommendations run the gamut, from historical fiction and non-fiction — including books from Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Ta-Nahisi Coates and Annette Gordon-Reed — to books perfect for kids. You can shop the links below or look for them in Black-owned bookshops.

And don't forget to explore other aspects of the day, including the history behind the flag, the holiday's special colors and powerful quotes from Black leaders about the significance of Juneteenth

This book tells the detailed historical journey leading up to Juneteenth in essay form. The author uses her knowledge as a historian and her experience as a Black Texas native to enlighten readers and dispel the often misguided information about American history many learned as children. Throughout the book are reminders that though Juneteenth is part of history, the fight for equity and equality is ongoing.

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On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed


Explore the past and present of the art form known as spoken word, and the influence it's had on other areas of the arts. With poetry, historical facts and thoughtful wordplay, the author is careful to highlight the legitimacy of poetic performance art and the beauty in its lyricism.

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Spoken Word: A Cultural History by Joshua Bennett


The complicated realities revolving around the intersections of Blackness are rarely explored. In this book written with young adults in mind, Johnson covers one such intersectionality as a person who identifies as Black and queer. Recalling his own experiences with gender identity through childhood he addresses the significance of consent, masculinity, Black joy and allyship.


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All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M. Johnson


Since it was published in 2011, The Warmth of Other Suns found itself on many bestseller and bookclub recommendation lists, including one from former President Barack Obama. The book details the cross-country trip made by Black citizens to the North from the South and West. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author interviewed over a thousand people to help tell the story of this historical movement many Americans were unaware of.

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The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson


A non-fiction story, Between the World and Me is a book that's more about describing "lived experience" than it is about teaching the Black experience. In the form of a letter, Coates explains to his teenage son his real fears based on his encounters in a Black body.

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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates


Heavy with footnotes, the Pulitzer prize-winning historian draws a relation to the Haitian revolution and the impact it had on American Slavery. Further documented are the emancipation efforts in Caribbean countries as well as the colonization and dehumanization of Black Americans from slavery on.

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The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation by David Brion Davis


Acknowledging the thankless role of the "she-roe" that Black women routinely play, it's a long overdue recognition of their monumental contributions. Interviews and profiles highlight the triumphs of notable Black women who fought problematic boundaries to claim wins for all. Part uplifting and part recount of historical events, the book highlights the various ways in which Black women remain the pillars of strength in society despite a lack of credit.

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


It's not uncommon for perfection to appear as if it's the only option; especially for Black women who are routinely doubting themselves in fear of not achieving "Black excellence." The anticipated debut book from the award-winning journalist leans on her insight as a high achiever to remind readers of their power and to trust their inner dopeness.

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Stop Waiting for Perfect by L'Oreal Thompson Payton


In just 26 pages, young minds are introduced to the historical and cultural significance of Juneteenth. With brightly colored illustrations by Tabitha Brown, toddlers will see the many ways the holiday is celebrated. They’ll also become familiar with other related terms such as Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day and more.

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Let's Celebrate Juneteenth Board Book by Tonya Abari


In 14 chapters, author Austin Channing Brown documents the Black experience from working in a supposedly anti-racist workspace, going through childhood in predominantly white spaces and the complexities of racial justice. Embedded throughout the 192-page memoir are nods to Christianity, the role of religion and the definition of hope on her terms as a Black woman.

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I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown


Described as short, yet impactful by reviewers, this book visually and emotionally takes readers through multiple meaningful events in American history as seen and felt by Black people. An exact 1,000-word count makes it a digestible read for adults and adolescents interested in a dynamic recalling of events.

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


Learning truths and unlearning all the rest as it relates to African ancestry in the last four hundred years is a tall order. With the help of 90 scholars, activists, journalists and historians, Ibram X. Kendi turned a vast history into a powerful anthology of Black voices chronologically dictating struggles and triumphant moments in history. Starting with the arrival of slaves in 1619 to Hurricane Katrina, Jim Crowe laws, a Trump presidency and more, contributors recount notable moments through digestible essays, poems and memoirs.

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Four Hundred Souls by Ibram X. Kendi


Love and light are recurring themes in this romantic anthology highlighting matters of the heart in the context of slavery. Interracial relationships, love between slaves and entrepreneurial endeavors mixed with hope is entertained throughout reflections on the fight for freedom in each of the four stories.

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The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology by Kianna Alexander


This story centers around a six-year-old girl who hears her grandmother retell the story of Juneteenth and the anticipation that preceded it. The rhyming picture book mimics the style and pace of the popular, Twas the Night Before Christmas, lending a familiarity for families reading together.

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The Night Before Freedom: A Juneteenth Story by Glenda Armand


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