June 19 – Juneteenth

Happy Juneteeth America!

Juneteeth, the 19th day of June 1865, recognizes the date that the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced in Texas, the last state in the union to observe the law. Although there are many differing stories as to why this took so long, none can be verified. But it is known that this is the date when troops entered Galveston, Texas to free the slaves working cotton plantations in the area, two and a half years after Lincoln’s address.

Celebrate Juneteenth with picture books related to African-American culture.  Here are a few of my favorites.


Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by James Ransome (1995)

Clara is an 11 year old girl who has been separated from her mother. Working in the ‘big house’ as a seamstress, she hears stories of neighboring plantations. Using this information and scraps of material, Clara stitches a freedom quilt which is actually a secret map of escape. She memorizes the map as she makes it and leaves it behind for others to use as well.

315882Henry’s Freedom Box written by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson (2007)

Henry Brown was born a slave. He was separated from his family. When he became an adult and had his own family, he was again separated from them. Working on the shipyards, he came with the idea to ship himself to Philidelphia. With the help of  some trusted friends, Henry ‘Box’ Brown mailed himself to freedom. Once free, he became an abolitionist hero.

222680Working Cotton written by Sherley Anne Williams and illustrated by Carole Byard (1997)

This is the story of a post-slave migrant family who work the fields from sunup to sundown picking cotton. The cotton is weighed by the pound for payment. Children of the migrant workers attend local schools while their parents work. After school, they help in the fields helping the adults. At the end of the picking season, they move on to another location following the crops.

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