Spend June celebrating Juneteenth!

Chatham Literacy booth at Juneteenth Celebration

June always means schools and graduations are over – and summer reading is on!

Start your family’s summer reading by considering books about a national holiday celebration this month called Juneteenth. Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth commemorates the anniversary date of June 19, 1865 when the Union Army general Gordon Granger, proclaimed freedom of slavery in Texas two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation officially ending slavery in this country.

Celebrations of Juneteenth can continue throughout the summer by locating several dynamic books on the subject. These include recommendations from the National Museum of African American History and Culture for adults, “On Juneteenth” by Pulitzer Prize winner author Annette Gordon-Reed. For children 6-years old and up, consider “Juneteenth for Mazie” by Floyd Cooper and National Book Award winner “Brown Girl Changing” by Jacqueline Woodson.

Parents and grandparents can further enhance their children’s experience on this important celebration by searching for more topics under Juneteenth at the local library by checking out audio books on the subject. National organization Save the Children also suggests digesting videos with your children on Juneteenth dealing with stories about equity. They suggest getting creative with a Juneteenth craft like a Pan-African flag (or Afro-American flag) using red, black and green construction paper and popsicle sticks or crayons or emphasizing inclusion by cooking traditional Juneteenth dishes. For a complete guide to Save the Children’s tips for celebrating Juneteenth with your family, go to: https://www.savethechildren.org/us/charity-stories/guide-to-juneteenth-for-kids-families.

For adults access the Chatham County Community Library special lecture produced in 2021, “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans in Chatham County, NC,” presented by Dr. Charles Johnson, Associate Professor and Director of Public History at North Carolina Central University at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEXlBxH9ANI.

As for the need to continue celebrating this event locally, the Chair of the Chatham County Commissioners, Karen Howard, says this national holiday is an important part of the African American experience telling all Americans about the enduring impact of slavery, “and abrogation of human rights in the aftermath.” Howard says educating all family members about this important date in not only important for individual education, it’s vital for the Chatham County community. “I am convinced that how we tell our stories and whose stories get told are critical elements in creating communities that are inclusive, welcoming and proud of their deep, rich history,” Howard says. “Chatham County is a stronger, more vibrant and a better place to live when we include all of our stories in the narrative.”

Howard also says the fact that so few Americans know why Juneteenth is celebrated is evidence of how difficult it is to tell the complete story of Blacks in America. “Perhaps it is most apparent when we think how quickly and easily facts about the reality of life during and immediately after slavery were erased from the narrative and diluted in the re-telling of our story. My hope is that our local Juneteenth activities will continue to be an opportunity for the broader Chatham community to share in and understand our collective story as Americans.”

Thanks to Community Organizing for Racial Equity (CORE) for hosting this year’s Juneteenth celebration. Chatham Literacy was proud to be a part of this enriching event.