Juneteenth marks the day that word of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached enslaved black people in Texas, two years and six months after President Abraham Lincoln ordered it. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in the state and announced the terribly belated news that “all persons held as slaves” within areas of the Confederacy “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Texas declared Juneteenth a statewide holiday in 1980 and several other states have followed suit over time. In 2021, the work of activists like Opal Lee was rewarded when President Joe Biden designated it a federal holiday.
To remember and celebrate the freedom the day commemorates, check out our list of inspiring and informative Juneteenth picture books to read with your children. Since many of the books were published prior to 2021, it’s important to share with your little ones that Juneteenth is now a federal holiday. Additionally, note that Juneteenth is one of many milestones on a long road to freedom for black people in America. The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to those enslaved in Confederate states, and many people remained in bondage after Juneteenth. The 13th amendment, which ended slavery in the nation, was not ratified until December 6, 1865—three years after Lincoln’s Proclamation and half a year after Juneteenth.
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