Juneteenth is an annual holiday observing the end of slavery in the United States and marks our country’s second Independence Day. It is also referenced as Freedom Day, Liberation Day, or Emancipation Day.
In 1863, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared slaves living in the Confederate states to be free. However, news that slavery was abolished did not reach the deepest parts of the former Confederacy in Galveston, Texas until June 19, 1865, over two years after the emancipation proclamation was signed. There was a low presence of Union Troops in this region, thus enforcement was slow and inconsistent.
Texas state residents finally learned that slavery had been abolished; celebration and jubilee filled that special day. In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday, and as of today 47 other states observe Juneteenth. We commemorate June 19 as the day slaves were truly set free.
There are a number of movies and documentaries related to the holiday.
- 13th: Thought-provoking documentary where scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.
- Just Mercy: Film based on the life work of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson that focuses on the systematic racism in our society.
- When They See Us: Based on the true story about the Central Park five teens who were falsely accused of a brutal attack that made nationwide headlines.
- Selma: Based on the true story of Marin Luther King and the turmoil in Selma.
- PBS Series: Juneteenth Jamboree, which "illuminates the significance of the Juneteenth holiday and shares stories about black culture and history."
- Juneteenth: A Celebration of Overcoming
Picture books to enjoy with children of all ages to learn and celebrate Juneteenth.
- Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper
- Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford
- Juneteenth: A Children’s Story by Opal Lee
- Juneteenth by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
- Raven The Great: What is Juneteenth? by Dr. Paulette McClain
- All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson
- Freedom’s Gifts: A Juneteenth Story by Valerie Wesley
The King County Library has curated a reading list commemorating Juneteenth.
Read stories that honor the richness of Black American culture, heritage, legacy and freedom.
- We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
- Stony the Road by Henry Louis Gates
- Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison
- The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin