The Importance of Freedom: Juneteenth-Adjacent Titles for Teens

Juneteenth, declared a federal holiday in 2021, has long been celebrated by African American communities. Why June 19th? Juneteenth celebrates the day (June 19, 1865) that General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery—almost three years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth reminds us that the road to freedom is long, messy and ongoing. Moments of rest, joy and celebration, such as Juneteenth, may be both opportunities to reflect on the freedoms achieved and to acknowledge that the work for freedom and justice continues. 

What was happening in the years leading up to and after Emancipation? Why is Juneteenth so important as a celebration for Black Americans? These titles will give context to the need for joy and celebration commemorating the day all Black Americans learned that they had been legally freed from chattel slavery, and illuminate how the legacy of slavery continues to echo in the present day lives of Black Americans.

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Black Was the Ink

Despondent sixteen-year-old Malcolm finds new strength and courage as he is transported between his family’s modern-day Mississippi farm and the life of his ancestor Cedric Johnson, a congressional aide in post-Civil War America.

Crossing Ebenezer Creek

Freed from slavery, Mariah and her young brother Zeke join Sherman’s march through Georgia, where Mariah meets a free black named Caleb and dares to imagine the possibility of true love, but hope can come at a cost. This title is also available for checkout as an eBook on OverDrive/Libby.

Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue

Emma has taken care of the Butler children since Sarah and Frances’s mother, Fanny, left. Emma wants to raise the girls to have good hearts, as a rift over slavery has ripped the Butler household apart. Now, to pay off debts, Pierce Butler wants to cash in his slave “assets,” possibly including Emma. This title is also available for checkout in eAudio on Hoopla.

Inventing Victoria

A young Black woman in 1880s Savannah is trapped between the life she has and the life she wants until she meets the richest and most cultured Black woman she’s ever encountered.

Miss Juneteenth

A former beauty queen and single mom prepares her rebellious teenage daughter for the “Miss Juneteenth” pageant.

My Name Is Not Friday

Samuel and his younger brother, Joshua, are free Black boys living in an orphanage during the Civil War. When Samuel takes the blame for his brother’s prank, he is sent South, given a new name, and sold into slavery. He must survive both captivity and the war in order to find his way back to his brother. This title is also available for checkout as an eBook on OverDrive/Libby and in eAudio on Hoopla.

This Is My America

While writing letters to Innocence X, a justice-seeking project, asking them to help her father, an innocent black man on death row, teenaged Tracy takes on another case when her brother is accused of killing his white girlfriend. This title is also available for checkout as an eBook on OverDrive/Libby and in eAudio on OverDrive/Libby.