Celebrate Juneteenth with the Library
On June 19th 1865 – more than two and a half years after the President Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery – Union Army General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and told the nation’s last remaining enslaved peoples that they were free. With his news, over 250,000 enslaved peoples were liberated. The move marked the official end of the enslavement of African Americans nationwide.
Today, we commemorate the end of slavery by celebrating Juneteenth. The holiday signifies joy, freedom, emancipation, and resistance –– past and present. Although Juneteenth has been celebrated within African American communities since 1866, it was formally recognized as a federal holiday in 2021.
Celebrate Juneteenth this year with a title from the Library or by visiting the African American Resource Collection, located on the first floor of Main Library, at 219 Loyola Avenue.
For young readers, AARC associate Gregory Jean recommends Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes, which is part of the critically-acclaimed trilogy, the Louisiana Girls.
The coming of age trilogy brings three heroic Louisiana girls together across history. Sugar is the second in the series. It follows 10-year old Sugar as she seeks a bigger world in post-Civil War America. At its core, it’s a touching story about a strong, spirited young girl who rises beyond her circumstances and inspires others to work toward a brighter future.
“I think this book connects to Juneteenth because it illustrates the challenges African-Americans still faced post-Emancipation,” Jean said. “Many formerly enslaved remained on their plantations, working for a bleak wage within very similar working conditions. In many ways, they were still trapped.”
Sugar is best suited for readers in grades 3-6.
For adults, Jean suggests Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo by Zora Neale Hurston.
Hurston was a world-renowned writer and anthropologist, whose works often depicted African-American life in the South. Barracoon is a non-fiction work based on three months of interviews in 1927 with Oluale Kossula, who was – at the time – the last presumed living survivor of the Middle Passage.
Through these interviews, Kossula provides first-hand accounts of his time in Africa, his capture, his bondage on the slave ship Clotilda, and forced servitude in Alabama. The book tracks slavery’s violence and aftermath through the words, memories, and history of a single person who survived it.
“We chose this title because it complicates the usually flattened slave narrative, and creates an often-downplayed, but deeply important link between African-Americans and Africa,” Jean said.
To celebrate Juneteenth in person, join us for an engaging morning singalong, an interactive workshop experience, and a Juneteenth-themed storybook scavenger hunt at Rosa F. Keller Library & Community Center Saturday, June 18. Stop by from 9:30 to 11:30 am to receive a free book, a snack, an activity packet, crayons, and a surprise special gift.
Presented in partnership with the Broadmoor Improvement Association and Young Audiences of Louisiana, our Juneteenth celebration is open to families with children of all ages, but is geared towards those age 8 and under.
For more recommendations on what to read, watch, or listen to this Juneteenth, check out the suggestions below:
Over the past five years, an unlikely venue has become one of drag queen Laveau Contraire’s favorite places to perform: the Library.