7 Children’s Books to Honor Juneteenth
Juneteenth began over 150 years ago and marks the day enslaved folks in Galveston, Texas learned slavery had ended…more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. In honor of this historic and joyful holiday, we’ve gathered seven amazing books that share the story—and the importance—of Juneteenth to our youngest readers and storytime listeners. From poems and board books to historical fiction and biographies, you’re guaranteed to find a book that’s right for you!
Written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper
This exuberant and beautifully illustrated historical fiction picture book is a perfect read-aloud for children of all ages. Award-winning author and illustrator Floyd Cooper shares the story of Mazie, a young girl who, like many kiddos, is annoyed by the restrictions her parents put on her…like a proper bedtime and no cookies before bed. She’s so sick of hearing “no”! But then Mazie’s dad tells her about her ancestors who had to deal with much bigger restrictions on their freedom. He goes on to explain why June 19, 1865, was so important then—the day Mazie’s great-great-great-grandfather became a free man—and continues to be so important today. Juneteenth for Mazie is a masterful introduction to history of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement.
Written by Alliah L. Agostini, illustrated by Sawyer Cloud
The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States is jam-packed with interesting, must-know facts about Juneteenth. Rich illustrations that mingle the past and present work with author Alliah L. Agostini’s engaging words to beautifully convey the sadness and the joy that Juneteenth embodies. The quick-reference history in the back of the book—and the author’s note about her personal connection to celebrating Juneteenth—make this book a valuable resource for kids and parents alike.
Written by Dorena Williamson, illustrated by Markia Jenai
Thick cardboard pages, engaging kid-friendly language, and cartoon-like illustrations make The Story of Juneteenth an ideal introduction to this important piece of American history. Bestselling author Dorena Williamson expertly explains that Juneteenth honors the day when the last enslaved Africans became free—all while sharing age-appropriate info on slavery, the Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation. While board books are traditionally for toddlers, this one can—and should—be a continued read for children of all ages.
Written by Sharon Dennis Wyeth, illustrated by Kim Holt
Far from a stuffy, eyes-glazed-over history lesson, Juneteenth: Our Day of Freedom does a fantastic job of inviting early readers (first through third grade) to learn the important story behind the federal holiday. Its engaging yet simple language and powerful illustrations expertly convey challenging topics—from the original Juneteenth in 1865 to today’s Black Lives Matter movement—to children in a way that educates and empowers.
Written by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
This lovely and lyrical biography tells the story of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Opal Lee and her leading role in making Juneteenth a national holiday…something that just happened in 2021. The book shifts from Opal Lee telling stories to her great-grandson at the annual Juneteenth celebration to stories from various time periods throughout history. Children will love learning about Opal Lee’s determination and persistence—and the important notion that no one is free unless everyone is free! There’s also a helpful timeline at the end of the book, plus a recipe for Juneteenth Red Punch that you can make with your children to celebrate the holiday at home.
Written by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, illustrated by Alex Bostic
Nothing tells a story quite like poetry…and this book is no exception! Activist, poet, and playwright Sojourner Kincaid Rolle’s stunning Juneteenth poem has been turned into a children's book, complete with mesmerizing and warm illustrations that’s a read-aloud must. The book leans on poetic verse to shed light on the travesty of slavery, the joy of freedom, the hardships that continue…and how Juneteenth has evolved over the years. Some sections of the poem rhyme and others are free verse—and all work together wonderfully to evoke all the emotions. Bonus: The author’s note highlights more history behind Juneteenth.
Written by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Angela Johnson’s All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom goes back in time to the summer day in 1865 when enslaved cotton field workers in Texas—including the book’s young protagonist—learned that slavery was abolished: “We were all / now and forever free / and things / would be / all different now.” Through subdued and lovely watercolors and sparse but impactful language, readers witness suddenly-free slaves learning the news. Some singing, some crying, some contemplative…but all celebrating.
For more reading recommendations, check our compilation of children’s books celebrating Black history!
Most of the books listed here are currently in stock at Mahogany Books, a Black-owned, family-run and operated book shop. We encourage buying these books—and more—from a Black-owned bookshop, like Mahogany Books.
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