9 Middle-Grade Titles for Juneteenth

By Jeff B. RSS Wed, June 14, 2023

All holidays have a story, a history, and a message. Juneteenth is no different.

The name comes from combining "June" and "nineteenth" and is celebrated on the anniversary of the order, issued by Major General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, proclaiming freedom for slaves in Texas after the end of the American Civil War. Juneteenth has since been observed annually in various parts of the United States, often broadly celebrating African-American culture. Not until 2021 was the day first recognized as a federal holiday when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law after the efforts of Lula Briggs Galloway, Opal Lee, and others. Juneteenth became the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was adopted in 1983.

These ten titles help tell the story of the holiday, why it is an important commemoration, and some of the events and conditions before and after the holiday spread across the country.


The Story of Our Holidays: Juneteenth by Joanna Ponto

In Texas, all slaves found out they were free on June 19, 1865. This day is known as Juneteenth. At first, it was a holiday in Texas, but now people celebrate Juneteenth all across the United States. Readers will learn about the history of the holiday as well as how it is celebrated today. In addition, they can prepare a delicious recipe for corn muffins and construct Juneteenth flag pinwheels to place in a garden, yard, or window.

Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem by Sojouner Kincaid Rolle

Deeply emotional, evocative free verse by poet and activist Sojourner Kincaid Rolle traces the solemnity and celebration of Juneteenth from its 1865 origins in Galveston, Texas to contemporary observances all over the United States. 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.

Juneteenth: Our Day of Freedom by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

Learn more about Juneteenth, a holiday that celebrates the end of chattel slavery in the United States in this Step 3 History Reader.

What Is Juneteenth? by Kirsti Jewel

On June 19, 1865, a group of enslaved men, women, and children in Texas gathered around a Union soldier and listened as he read the most remarkable words they would ever hear. They were no longer enslaved: they were free. The inhumane practice of forced labor with no pay was now illegal in all of the United States. This news was cause for celebration, so the group of people jumped in excitement, danced, and wept tears of joy. They did not know it at the time, but their joyous celebration of freedom would become a holiday  — Juneteenth  — that is observed each year by more and more Americans.

How We Can Live: Principles of Black Lives Matter by Laleña Garcia

This is a nonfiction introduction to thirteen principles underlying the Black Lives Matter movement and organization, written in a style that children can understand and illustrated with portraits of icons, activists, and regular people.

Call Me Miss Hamilton: One Woman's Case for Equality and Respect by Carole Boston Weatherford

This picture book biography in verse tells the story of Mary Hamilton, an African American woman, and Civil Rights activist, who was found to be in contempt of court when she would not respond to questions from an Alabama judge who used only her first name while calling white people "Mr.," "Mrs.," or "Miss." The NAACP took her case, which appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in Mary Hamilton's favor.

BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford

Henry Brown wrote that long before he came to be known as "Box," he "entered the world a slave." He was put to work as a child and passed down from one generation to the next - as property. When he was an adult, his wife and children were sold away from him out of spite. Henry Brown watched as his family left, bound in chains, headed to the deeper South. What more could be taken from him? But then hope  — and help  — came in the from of the Underground Railroad. Escape! The author, in poems, narrates Henry Brown's story of how he came to ship himself in a box from slavery to freedom.

Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

This is a chapter book adaptation of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning.

What Is Black Lives Matter? by Lakita Wilson

The history and importance of the Black Lives Matter movement is discussed.

Do you and your family celebrate Juneteenth? What other holidays and celebrations do you enjoy? Check with your local librarian for more on Juneteenth and lots of holidays celebrated in Philadelphia and around the world.

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