Stories to share with your community on Juneteenth and beyond

On June 19, 1865 in Galveston, TX, African American slaves were finally informed of their freedom, despite the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation two years prior. Juneteenth is also referred to as “Freedom Day”, “Emancipation Day”, and “Juneteenth Independence Day.” The first celebrations of Juneteenth was about honoring former enslaved people. Today celebrations of Juneteenth consist of gathering with family, BBQs, parades, festivals, beauty contests, and other celebratory events to remember the lives of African American slave ancestors.

For those who would like to learn more, we recommend reading “Juneteenth: The Growth of an African-American Holiday” and “So You Want to Learn About Juneteenth?

Tune in to The Juneteenth Book Festival, created by author L.L. McKinney and co-organized by Saraciea Fennell, and featuring authors Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds, Nic Stone, Tiffany D. Jackson, Dhonielle Clayton, Alicia D. Williams, Mikki Kendall, Lamar Giles, Leah Johnson, Jay Coles, Kwame Mbalia, Justin A. Reynolds, Bethany C. Morrow, Ashley Woodfolk, Julian Winters, Tracey Deonn, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Kaylnn Bayron, Karama Horne, Karen Strong, Alyssa Cole, Eboni J. Dunbar, Patrice Caldwell, L.D. Lewis, Brent Lambert, Nivia Evans, Nichole Perkins, Farrah Rochon, Beverly Jenkins, Danny Lore, DaVaun Sanders, Roya Marsh, Zakiya Jamal, Claire Kann, and Candice Iloh.

28 DAYS: Moments in Black History that Changed the World by Charles R. Smith Jr.; illustrated by Shane W. Evans

With powerful illustrations by Shane Evans, this picture book offers a completely unique look at the importance and influence of African Americans on the history of this country.

Each day features a different influential figure in African-American history, from Crispus Attucks, the first man shot in the Boston Massacre, sparking the Revolutionary War, to Madame C. J. Walker, who after years of adversity became the wealthiest black woman in the country, as well as one of the wealthiest black Americans, to Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American president.


RUNAWAY: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge by Ray Anthony Shepard; illustrated by Keith Mallett
ON SALE JANUARY 5, 2021

Runaway is a powerful, lyrical picture book about the enslavement of Ona Judge and her self-emancipation from George Washington’s household.

Ona Judge was enslaved by the Washingtons, and served the President’s wife, Martha. Ona was widely known for her excellent skills as a seamstress, and was raised alongside Washington’s grandchildren. Indeed, she was frequently mistaken for his granddaughter. This biography follows her childhood and adolescence until she decides to run away.

This book doesn’t shy away from the horrors of slavery, nor the complex role of house servants. Author Ray Anthony Shepard implicates the reader in Ona’s decision to emancipate herself by using a rhetorical refrain, “Why you run, Ona Judge?” This haunting meditation welcomes meaningful and necessary conversation among readers. Illustrator Keith Mallett’s rich paintings include fabric collage and add further feeling and majesty to Ona’s daring escape.


SO TALL WITHIN: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt; illustrated by Daniel Minter

With breathtaking illustrations from the award-winning fine artist Daniel Minter, this is a picture book biography of a giant in the struggle for civil rights, and an important story to share with young readers today

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery but possessed a mind and a vision that knew no bounds. So Tall Within traces her life from her painful childhood through her remarkable emancipation to her incredible leadership in the movement for rights for both women and African Americans. Her story is told with lyricism and pathos by Gary D. Schmidt, one of the most celebrated writers for children in the twenty-first century, and brought to life by award winning and fine artist Daniel Minter. This combination of talent is just right for introducing this legendary figure to a new generation of children.


UNDERGROUND: Finding the Light to Freedom written and illustrated by Shane W. Evans

★ Coretta Scott King Medal for Illustrators ★

A family silently crawls along the ground. They run barefoot through unlit woods, sleep beneath bushes, take shelter in a kind stranger’s home. Where are they heading? They are heading for freedom by way of the Underground Railroad.

“The achievement of Underground is to summon up for young readers the spirit and emotions–desperation, fear and, ultimately, celebration–of the Underground Railroad…[A] poetic invocation of slavery and freedom.” —The New York Times Book Review


LINCOLN AND DOUGLASS: An American Friendship by Nikki Giovanni; illustrations by Bryan Collier

Nikki Giovanni and Bryan Collier, the acclaimed team behind Rosa, winner of the Coretta Scott King Award and a Caldecott Honor book, join forces once more to portray this historic friendship at a unique moment in time.

Our sixteenth president is known for many things: he delivered the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address during the Civil War. He was tall and skinny and notoriously stern-looking. And he also had some very strong ideas about abolishing slavery, ideas which brought him into close contact with another very visible public figure: Frederick Douglass. Douglass was born a slave but escaped in 1838 and became one of the central figures in the history of the American abolitionist movement.

This book offers a glimpse into the unusual friendship between two great American leaders. At a time when racial tensions were high and racial equality was not yet established, Abraham Lincoln and Douglass formed a strong bond over shared ideals and worked alongside each other for a common goal.


Find more books by Black authors and illustrators here.