Juneteenth marks the day when a Union general went to Galveston, Texas in 1865 to announce that the Emancipation Proclamation had ended slavery in Confederate states. Though the Proclamation had gone into effect in 1863—a full two-and-a-half years prior—Texas slaveholders decided to ignore it for as long as they possibly could. It wasn’t until June 19th, 1865 that federal orders were read out in Galveston, and the last enslaved people in the United States were made aware of their freedom.
Slaveholders would continue looking for ways to enslave people until Union troops literally showed up on their doorstep. (For the curious: read Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s essay on the history of Juneteenth.) Today we commemorate Juneteenth as a day of hope and endurance, of joy and pain, and here are just a few books to help you do that.