Despite the fact the Emancipation Proclamation outlawed slavery on January 1, 1863, it applied only to states that had seceded from the United States. In the south, as the Civil War raged on, life didn't change for enslaved people. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, informing enslaved African Americans that they were finally free and that the Civil War was over. It was a true cause for celebration. Now, 157 years later, the spirit behind Juneteenth (a combination of "June" and "nineteenth") celebrations are still needed, and perhaps more now than ever before.

In 2021, Juneteenth finally became a federal holiday. One of the best ways to honor this historical date is to educate our children so they understand the history of Juneteenth and other crucial moments in Black history, and why they're still important today. We've rounded up some of the best books about Juneteenth for kids of all ages which are both celebratory and informative.

From fictional stories to colorful non-fiction titles, check out our favorite Juneteenth books for kids of all ages.

The Juneteenth Story- Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States

The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah L. Agostini

Packed with colorful illustrations and a historical timeline, this new title presents an accessible way to teach younger kids about the importance of the Juneteenth holiday along with the events that led to its creation. It’s deeply informative while remaining age-appropriate with detailed dates, names and locations.

Ages: 6-9

opal lee

Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth by Alice Faye Duncan

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, informing enslaved African Americans that they were finally free and that the Civil War was over. But it wasn’t until 2021 that it would be honored as a federal holiday. Celebrate the vision and tenacity of one of the women who made it happen–activist Opal Lee, the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” with a message of hope, unity, joy and strength.

Ages: 6-8 years old

 

What is Juneteenth

What is Juneteenth? by Kirsti Jewel

Part of the New York Times best-selling series, this non-fiction book follows the history that led to the creation of the holiday and shares stories from celebrations both past and present. While it’s written for middle grades, the clear and digestible information is great for reading aloud with younger kids as well.

Ages: 8-12 years old

All Different Now

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson

Relive Juneteenth from the eyes of a young girl in this picture book that includes notes from the author, a timeline of important dates and a glossary of relevant terms.

Ages: 5 – 9 years old

Freedom's Gifts

Freedom's Gifts: A Juneteenth Story by Valerie Wesley

Gorgeous photographs and simple text highlight the story of a Texas girl helping her cousin understand the importance of “freedom’s gifts.”

Ages: 5 – 9 years old

Juneteenth Jamboree

Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford

Looking for a fun way to introduce this holiday to your little? Share this story of young Cassie, who celebrates the joyous holiday at a community event with her family.

Ages: 6 – 9 years old

Juneteenth For Mazie

Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper

Follow Mazie as she remembers the struggles and the triumph of Juneteenth. This sturdy board book is not only a celebration of Juneteenth, but also African American history.

Ages: 6 – 9 years old

Let's Celebrate Emancipation Day & Juneteenth

Let's Celebrate Emancipation Day & Juneteenth by Barbara deRubertis

Serving as a true history lesson, this book aims to educate the origins of slavery, explaining how traders brought captured Africans across the ocean in chains, then sold them in markets to white owners. The book, which includes photos, also highlights why the observance of DC Emancipation Day, a holiday celebrating emancipation in the District of Columbia, is just as important.

Ages: 10 and up

A version of this story was published June 16, 2021. It has been updated.