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Featured | NewsJune 18, 2022

Summer Reading: Juneteenth Edition

Written By: John Blue

Throughout the summer students, faculty, and staff at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith have partnered to release compelling reading (and watching) lists, centered around amplifying diverse voices, and sharing impactful stories with the UAFS community. 

In celebration of Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, John Blue, executive director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at UAFS compiled this incredible list of works that explore, celebrate, and honor the Black experience, and emphasize equality, education, and empowerment.

From gripping fiction to dense history texts to children’s books with messages all can learn from, this list has something for everyone.


Juneteenth was officially declared a national holiday in 2021, through the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act which allows national pause to honor the events of June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended & the enslaved people of Galveston were free - two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. More about the history of Juneteenth celebrations and and their importance is available at https://juneteenth.com.


“Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own”

 Author – Eddie S. Glaude Jr. 

James Baldwin grew disillusioned by the failure of the civil rights movement to force America to confront its lies about race. What can we learn from his struggle in our own moment?
 
Named one of the best books of the year by Time, The Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune • Winner of the Stowe Prize • Shortlisted for the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice
 
“Not everything is lost. Responsibility cannot be lost, it can only be abdicated. If one refuses abdication, one begins again.”—James Baldwin
 
Begin Again is one of the great books on James Baldwin and a powerful reckoning with America’s ongoing failure to confront the lies it tells itself about race. Just as in Baldwin’s “after times,” argues Eddie S. Glaude Jr., when white Americans met the civil rights movement’s call for truth and justice with blind rage and the murders of movement leaders, so in our moment were the Obama presidency and the birth of Black Lives Matter answered with the ascendance of Trump and the violent resurgence of white nationalism.
 
In these brilliant and stirring pages, Glaude finds hope and guidance in Baldwin as he mixes biography—drawn partially from newly uncovered Baldwin interviews—with history, memoir, and poignant analysis of our current moment to reveal the painful cycle of Black resistance and white retrenchment. As Glaude bears witness to the difficult truth of racism’s continued grip on the national soul, Begin Again is a searing exploration of the tangled web of race, trauma, and memory, and a powerful interrogation of what we must ask of ourselves in order to call forth a new America.

 

“Juneteenth: The Story Behind the Celebration”

 Author – Edward T. Cotham Jr. 

Juneteenth has been touted as a national day celebrating the end of slavery. Observances from coast to coast have turned this event into part of the national conversation about race, slavery, and how Americans understand, acknowledge, and explain what has been called the national “original sin.”

But, why Juneteenth? Where did this celebration—which promises to become a national holiday—come from? What is the origin story? What are the facts, and legends, around this important day in the nation’s history?

This is the first scholarly book to delve into the history behind Juneteenth. Using decades of research in archives around the nation, this book helps separate myth from reality and tells the story behind the celebration in a way that provides new understanding and appreciation for the event.

This book will captivate people interested in the history of emancipation and African American history but also those interested in Civil War and Texas history.

As the United States continues to wrestle with race relations and the meaning of full equality, Juneteenth promises to become an important expression of that equality—an Independence Day celebration in its own right, a couple of weeks in advance of the traditional July 4th Holiday. This book will be a welcome addition to classrooms, book clubs and general readers interested in this once obscure regional event now destined for the national spotlight.

 

“Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul”

 Author – Eddie S. Glaude Jr. 

A powerful polemic on the state of black America that savages the idea of a post-racial society.
 
America’s great promise of equality has always rung hollow in the ears of African Americans. But today the situation has grown even more dire. From the murders of black youth by the police, to the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, to the disaster visited upon poor and middle-class black families by the Great Recession, it is clear that black America faces an emergency—at the very moment the election of the first black president has prompted many to believe we’ve solved America’s race problem.
 
Democracy in Black is Eddie S. Glaude Jr.'s impassioned response. Part manifesto, part history, part memoir, it argues that we live in a country founded on a “value gap”—with white lives valued more than others—that still distorts our politics today. Whether discussing why all Americans have racial habits that reinforce inequality, why black politics based on the civil-rights era have reached a dead end, or why only remaking democracy from the ground up can bring real change, Glaude crystallizes the untenable position of black America--and offers thoughts on a better way forward. Forceful in ideas and unsettling in its candor, Democracy In Black is a landmark book on race in America, one that promises to spark wide discussion as we move toward the end of our first black presidency.

 

“How to Be an Antiracist”

 Author – Ibram X. Kendi

Description - Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism - and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At its core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes listeners through a widening circle of antiracist ideas - from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities - that will help listeners see all forms of racism clearly, understand their poisonous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves. Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.

 

“The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” 

Author – Nikole Hannah-Jones

The New York Times Magazine’s award-winning “1619 Project” issue reframed our understanding of American history by placing slavery and its continuing legacy at the center of our national narrative. This new book substantially expands on that work, weaving together 18 essays that explore the legacy of slavery in present-day America with 36 poems and works of fiction that illuminate key moments of oppression, struggle, and resistance. The essays show how the inheritance of 1619 reaches into every part of contemporary American society, from politics, music, diet, traffic, and citizenship to capitalism, religion, and our democracy itself. This is a book that speaks directly to our current moment, contextualizing the systems of race and caste within which we operate today. It reveals long-glossed-over truths around our nation’s founding and construction - and the way that the legacy of slavery did not end with emancipation, but continues to shape contemporary American life.

 

“The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America”

 Author – Richard Rothstein

This “powerful and disturbing history” exposes how American governments deliberately imposed racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide (New York Times Book Review).

In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation―that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of Law incontrovertibly makes clear that it was de jure segregation―the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments―that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day.

Through extraordinary revelations and extensive research that Ta-Nehisi Coates has lauded as "brilliant" (The Atlantic), Rothstein comes to chronicle nothing less than an untold story that begins in the 1920s, showing how this process of de jure segregation began with explicit racial zoning, as millions of African Americans moved in a great historical migration from the south to the north.

As Jane Jacobs established in her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, it was the deeply flawed urban planning of the 1950s that created many of the impoverished neighborhoods we know. Now, Rothstein expands our understanding of this history, showing how government policies led to the creation of officially segregated public housing and the demolition of previously integrated neighborhoods. While urban areas rapidly deteriorated, the great American suburbanization of the post–World War II years was spurred on by federal subsidies for builders on the condition that no homes be sold to African Americans. Finally, Rothstein shows how police and prosecutors brutally upheld these standards by supporting violent resistance to black families in white neighborhoods.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited future discrimination but did nothing to reverse residential patterns that had become deeply embedded. Yet recent outbursts of violence in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson, and Minneapolis show us precisely how the legacy of these earlier eras contributes to persistent racial unrest. “The American landscape will never look the same to readers of this important book” (Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund), as Rothstein’s invaluable examination shows that only by relearning this history can we finally pave the way for the nation to remedy its unconstitutional past.

 

“Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”

 Author – Zora Neale Hurston

A major literary event: a newly published work from the author of the American classic Their Eyes Were Watching God, with a foreword from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, brilliantly illuminates the horror and injustices of slavery as it tells the true story of one of the last-known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade―abducted from Africa on the last "Black Cargo" ship to arrive in the United States.

In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, just outside Mobile, to interview eighty-six-year-old Cudjo Lewis. Of the millions of men, women, and children transported from Africa to America as slaves, Cudjo was then the only person alive to tell the story of this integral part of the nation’s history. Hurston was there to record Cudjo’s firsthand account of the raid that led to his capture and bondage fifty years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the United States.

In 1931, Hurston returned to Plateau, the African-centric community three miles from Mobile founded by Cudjo and other former slaves from his ship. Spending more than three months there, she talked in depth with Cudjo about the details of his life. During those weeks, the young writer and the elderly formerly enslaved man ate peaches and watermelon that grew in the backyard and talked about Cudjo’s past―memories from his childhood in Africa, the horrors of being captured and held in a barracoon for selection by American slavers, the harrowing experience of the Middle Passage packed with more than 100 other souls aboard the Clotilda, and the years he spent in slavery until the end of the Civil War.

Based on those interviews, featuring Cudjo’s unique vernacular, and written from Hurston’s perspective with the compassion and singular style that have made her one of the preeminent American authors of the twentieth-century, Barracoon masterfully illustrates the tragedy of slavery and of one life forever defined by it. Offering insight into the pernicious legacy that continues to haunt us all, black and white, this poignant and powerful work is an invaluable contribution to our shared history and culture.

 

“The 1619 Project: Born on the Water” – Children’s Book

Authors – Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renee’ Watson

Illustrator – Nikkolas Smith

The 1619 Project’s lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newbery honor-winning author Renée Watson. A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders. But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to be born on the water survived.

 

“Juneteenth: Our Day of Freedom (Step into Reading)” – Children’s Book

Author – Sharon Dennis Wyeth

Illustrator – Kim Holt

Some call it Freedom Day; some call it Emancipation Day; some call it Juneteenth. Learn more about this important holiday that celebrates the end of chattel slavery in the United States in this Step 3 History Reader. On June 19, 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, a group of enslaved men, women, and children in Texas gathered. Order Number 3 was read, proclaiming that they were no longer enslaved--they were free. People danced, wept tears of joy, and began to plan their new lives. Juneteenth became an annual celebration that is observed by more and more Americans with parades, picnics, family gatherings, and reflection on the words of historical figures, to mark the day when freedom truly rang for all.
Step 3 Readers feature engaging characters in easy-to-follow plots and popular topics--for children who are ready to read on their own.

 

“Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth” – Children’s Book

Author – Alice Faye Duncan

Illustrator – Keturah A. Bobo

Black activist Opal Lee had a vision of Juneteenth as a holiday for everyone. This true story celebrates Black joy and inspires children to see their dreams blossom. Growing up in Texas, Opal knew the history of Juneteenth, but she soon discovered that many Americans had never heard of the holiday. Join Opal on her historic journey to recognize and celebrate "freedom for all."

Every year, Opal looked forward to the Juneteenth picnic—a drumming, dancing, delicious party. She knew from Granddaddy Zak's stories that Juneteenth celebrated the day the freedom news of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation finally sailed into Texas in 1865—over two years after the president had declared it! But Opal didn't always see freedom in her Texas town. Then one Juneteenth day when Opal was twelve years old, an angry crowd burned down her brand-new home. This wasn't freedom at all. She had to do something! But could one person’s voice make a difference? Could Opal bring about national recognition of Juneteenth? Follow Opal Lee as she fights to improve the future by honoring the past.

Through the story of Opal Lee's determination and persistence, children ages 4 to 8 will learn:

  • all people are created equal
  • the power of bravery and using your voice for change
  • the history of Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, and what it means today
  • no one is free unless everyone is free
  • fighting for a dream is worth the difficulty experienced along the way

Featuring the illustrations of New York Times bestselling illustrator Keturah A. Bobo (I am Enough), Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free by Alice Faye Duncan celebrates the life and legacy of a modern-day Black leader while sharing a message of hope, unity, joy, and strength.

 

Black Heroes: A Black History Book for Kids: 51 Inspiring People from Ancient Africa to Modern-Day U.S.A. (People and Events in History) – Children’s Book

Author – Arlisha Norwood

Meet extraordinary black heroes throughout history―biographies for kids ages 8 to 12

You’re invited to meet ancient Egyptian rulers, brilliant scientists, legendary musicians, and civil rights activists―all in the same book! Black Heroes introduces you to 51 black leaders and role models from both history and modern times. This black history book for kids features inspirational biographies of trailblazers from the United States, Egypt, Britain, and more.

Discover where in the world they lived, and what their lives were like growing up. Learn about the obstacles they faced on the way to making groundbreaking accomplishments. You’ll find out how these inspirational figures created lasting change―and paved the way for future generations.

Black Heroes: A Black History Book for Kids features:

  • Fascinating biographies―Read about famous icons like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman, as well as lesser-known pioneers like aviator Bessie Coleman and astronomer Benjamin Banneker.
  • Ways to learn more―Every biography includes an idea for a new way to explore the person and their work, like a book to read, website to visit, or video to watch.
  • Colorful portraits―Bring the historical heroes to life in your imagination with the help of full-color illustrations.

Black Heroes goes beyond other black history biographies for kids to highlight people from around the world and across time. Who will your new hero be?

 

Juneteenth (Racial Justice in America: Histories) – Children’s Book

Author – Kevin P. Winn

Contributor – Kelisa Wing

The Racial Justice in America: Histories series explores moments and eras in America's history that have been ignored or misrepresented in education due to racial bias. Juneteenth explores the history around the celebration in a comprehensive, honest, and age-appropriate way. Developed in conjunction with educator, advocate, and author Kelisa Wing to reach children of all races and encourage them to approach our history with open eyes and minds. Books include 21st Century Skills and content, as well as activities created by Wing. Also includes a table of contents, glossary, index, author biography, sidebars, educational matter, and activities.