Since 1865, Juneteenth has been celebrated. It is a federal United States holiday that celebrates freedom from slavery. The first celebration originated in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, two years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared that the enslaved people of the rebelling Confederate states were now free. Today, Juneteenth is also a celebration of African American heritage and culture.
Juneteenth has been celebrated for 156 years, so how can you observe the holiday this year? Educating children and adults is a wonderful way to honor Juneteenth. Young children can celebrate this holiday with their parents by learning about the meaning behind the holiday. A great way to teach young kids about Juneteenth is by studying the Juneteenth Flag. While there are many books for children of all ages and learning levels to understand the holiday’s history, older children might have a better understanding of the books’ content than younger children will. Vary your learning methods—such as reading books, studying images, and touring places—to help everyone celebrate and remember the holiday in age-appropriate ways. Juneteenth is an important way to celebrate Black heritage and culture, and children of all ages can learn and celebrate!
1. The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch
A unique biography of a remarkable Reconstruction figure
by Chris Barton and Don Tate
John Roy Lynch spent most of his childhood as a slave in Mississippi, but all of that changed with the Emancipation Proclamation. Suddenly people like John Roy could have paying jobs and attend school. While many people in the South were unhappy with the social change, John Roy thrived in the new era. He was appointed to serve as justice of the peace and was eventually elected to the United States Congress. This biography, with its informative backmatter and splendid illustrations, gives readers an in-depth look at the Reconstruction period through the life of one of the first African-American congressmen.
2. Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation
A powerful testimony to the power of the written word to bring hope in desperate circumstances
by Pat Sherman and Floyd Cooper
Ben, a young slave, uses every chance he gets to teach himself to read, practicing with the words he sees on street signs and in shop windows and even in cast-off newspapers he finds in the gutter.
But after the Civil War breaks out, his master leaves town and Ben finds himself in a slave prison. One night, the prisoners bribe a guard to get their hands on a newspaper, and to the applause of his fellow slaves, Ben reads aloud the momentous news of Mr. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — surely one of the most remarkable readings of that document ever.
Based on the true story of Benjamin Holmes, Pat Sherman’s stirring text and the memorable illustrations of Coretta Scott King medalist Floyd Cooper pay tribute to the power of freedom — and to the power of the written word.
3. The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights
A story of the African-American journey from slavery to civil rights
by Carole Boston Weatherford and Tim Ladwig
In this book the Beatitudes—from Jesus’s famous Sermon on the Mount—form the backdrop for Carole Boston Weatherford’s powerful free-verse poem that traces the African American journey from slavery to civil rights.
Tim Ladwig’s stirring illustrations showcase a panorama of heroes in this struggle, from the slaves shackled in the hold of a ship to the first African American president taking his oath of office on the steps of the United States Capitol.
Readers of all ages will find this a book to return to again and again for encouragement and inspiration.
4. I Lay My Stitches Down
Embrace the dream of diversity
by Cynthia Grady and Michele Wood
This rich and intricate collection of poems chronicles the various experiences of American slaves. Drawn together through imagery drawn from quilting and fiber arts, each poem is spoken from a different perspective: a house slave, a mother losing her daughter to the auction block, a blacksmith, a slave fleeing on the Underground Railroad.
This moving and eloquent set of poems, brought to life by vivid and colorful artwork from Michele Wood, offers a timeless witness to the hardship endured by America’s slaves. Each poem is supplemented by a historical note.
5. The Watcher
A poetic story inspired by Psalm 121
by Nikki Grimes and Bryan Collier
Jordan lives in fear of Tanya, the class bully. But Tanya has worries of her own, no matter how much she tries to ignore them. It seems impossible that Jordan and Tanya could be anything other than enemies, but the Lord is watching over them, guiding each of them along a path that might just help them to understand one another.
Nikki Grimes takes the words of a Psalm 121 and masterfully transforms them into a golden shovel poem of compassion, friendship, and faith. Coupled with powerful artwork from Bryan Collier, this heartfelt story is one that readers will treasure.
6. Psalm Twenty-Three
An ancient psalm brings comfort in the modern world
illustrated by Tim Ladwig
Through poignant, heart-warming images of an urban African-American family, children experience the comfort and encouragement this favorite psalm still offers—the powerful message that they can rely on the Lord as they thread their way through the risk-filled maze of daily life in the city.
7. When Daddy Prays
by Nikki Grimes and Tim Ladwig
When Daddy prays
my fear of darkness disappears
and angels tiptoe down the hall.
I hear them through the door and wall . . . when Daddy prays.
In this collection of poems by Nikki Grimes, a child learns about prayer from his father, whose prayers carry the family through each day—no matter what the circumstances.
Nikki Grimes believes that spirituality and prayer are signs of true strength and power. When Daddy Prays celebrates fathers who help their children see this. Grimes writes, “In my view there is no more powerful image than that of a strong man bowing before God.”
Illustrator Tim Ladwig has created remarkable images, rich with tenderness and touches of affectionate humor, to enhance and complete this exceptional book.
8. The Lord’s Prayer
Illustrated by Tim Ladwig
Our Father in Heaven,
Hallowed be your name . . .
The beloved words of The Lord’s Prayer serve as the text for this remarkable book, in which Tim Ladwig illustrates how the words of this ancient prayer can have real meaning in our lives today.
In Tim’s paintings, a young girl and her father spend a day together helping an elderly neighbor. The love and guidance the child experiences in her relationship with her dad reflect the heart and will of our Heavenly Father in concrete ways children of all ages will understand.
Washington Post Book World
“Ladwig proves that a deftly executed illustration drives a point home as effectively as words—even when the words are as eloquent as those in the Lord’s Prayer.”
The Bloomsbury Review
“With no exposition or dialogue Tim Ladwig weaves ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ into a touching story about a young girl and her father spending the day together. They help an elderly woman repair her home and together find the true meaning of giving and love. The most amazing thing about The Lord’s Prayer is that the story is told through illustrations alone. And these are some of the most beautiful illustrations I’ve ever seen. This book is an excellent addition to any child’s bookshelf.”
9. Mississippi Morning
A thought-provoking story of one boy’s loss of naiveté and encounter with harsh reality
by Ruth Vander Zee and Floyd Cooper
It’s the middle of the Great Depression, but James William still enjoys his life in rural Mississippi. But his happiness starts to unravel when he discovers the fire that burned down the local preacher’s house wasn’t an accident, but a hate crime. When his friend LeRoy tells him about the Klan and their hanging tree, James William has a hard time grasping this harsh reality, until an unexpected encounter brings the issue close to home.
A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation
Written by Lindsey McDivitt
Illustrated by Charly PalmerAges 7 and Up
As Nelson Mandela lived and worked under the unjust system of apartheid, his desire for freedom grew. South Africa separated people by races, oppressing the country’s non-white citizens with abusive laws and cruel restrictions. Every day filled Mandela with grief and anger. But he also had hope—hope for a nation that belonged to everyone who lived in it.
From his work with the African National Congress, to his imprisonment on Robben Island, to his extraordinary rise to the presidency, Nelson Mandela was a rallying force against injustice. This stirring biography explores Mandela’s long fight for equality and the courage that propelled him through decades of struggle. Illustrated in the bold, bright colors of South Africa, A Plan for the People captures the spirit of a leader beloved around the world.