June 18, 2021
Earlier this week, the President signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, declaring June 19 as a federal holiday in the United States. Often called Jubilee Day or Liberation Day, many Americans have long celebrated Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved descendants of African people. In fact, many consider Juneteenth to be America’s second Independence Day and the oldest African American holiday.
The origin of Juneteenth stretches back to Galveston, Texas, in 1866. Although President Abraham Lincoln outlawed slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, news spread slowly to more isolated areas of the country, including parts of Texas, and many states refused to enforce the law until they were occupied by Union Troops. On June 19, 1865, the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, and declared freedom from slavery. In 1866, the one-year anniversary of this declaration was commemorated by local residents, and since then, many celebrate each year on June 19.
Juneteenth celebrations, now held across the country, range from festivities with food, music, and entertainment to political rallies and educational forums focused on continuing the fight for social justice and equality today. Many also read and listen to works by African American writers and musicians and explore African American heritage and culture.
Here is a list compiled by MCPL staff of Juneteenth reads for all ages in the Library’s collection: Oh, Happy Day! Commemorating Juneteenth. The Library also offers many online resources that focus on African American history and culture, including:
- Access Video on Demand – Stream videos and documentaries about Black Americans—from leaders of the Civil Rights Movement to women of color who are transforming politics.
- African-American History Online – Covers more than 500 years of African American history, from the slave trade to the Civil Rights Movement to present day
- African American Biographical Database – Biographies of activists, formerly enslaved people, artists, athletes, educators, lawyers, writers, scientists, and more
- African-American Music Reference – Essays and images that cover blues, jazz, spirituals, Civil Rights songs, slave songs, gospel, and other forms of Black American musical expression
- Black Thought and Culture – Nonfiction writings that presents what it is to be Black in America; includes the only full run of The Black Panther newspaper
- Slavery and Anti-Slavery – Includes works on the transatlantic slave trade and the global abolition movement
- Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice, 1490-2007 – Documents and collections from libraries and archives around the world
- U.S. History – Browse topics to discover African American perspectives from pre-colonial times to the present.
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