Spend all summer celebrating Juneteenth and Black culture!

Chatham Literacy booth at Juneteenth Celebration

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

Celebrate this year’s Juneteenth by starting an old classic or by finding a new favorite book. Or, listen to some oral storytelling at the library and stroll around the Pittsboro fairgrounds at the Juneteenth Black Arts Festival. Or…

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 — A FULL 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.

Books and Activities For Children

For children 6-years old and up, consider “Juneteenth for Mazie” by Floyd Cooper or 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.

Books and Activities For Adults

One book that specifically discusses Juneteenth is recommended by the National Museum of African American History and Culture: “On Juneteenth” by Pulitzer Prize winner author Annette Gordon-Reed.

For a more general discussion of race in America, television edutainment reporter W. Kamau Bell’s popular activity book for adults Do the Work will keep you entertained and learning. It is an anti-racist exercise book jam-packed with activities, games, illustrations, comics, and eye-opening conversation. Do the Work! challenges readers to think critically and act effectively. Learn more here: https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/17/opinions/w-kamau-bell-kate-schatz-do-the-work-carr/index.html

If you just want to curl up with a good book from a well-known Black author, this is a list of major Classics by Black authors: https://www.oprahdaily.com/entertainment/books/g26187205/best-books-black-authors/

New canonical books, plays and poems are listed here: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/07/t-magazine/black-books-plays-poems.html

And hot new Black authors can be found here: https://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/books/g33625689/best-books-black-authors

We would be remiss if we did not include NPR and New York Times bestseller Brendan Slocumb’s newest novel, Symphony of Secrets, available at McIntyre’s Books. Brendan was our 2024 Spring into Literacy Luncheon Guest Speaker, and delighted the audience with his stories behind his musical mysteries.

These are just a few of the outstanding Black authors with books currently in print, and there are many, many more authors out there just waiting to be discovered by you.

Local Tours

If reading is not your cup of sweet tea, it is possible to visit some of the local slave graveyards, the Underground Railroad “station” in Snow Camp (possibly closed?), and places in Chatham County where lynchings are now commemorated in honor of those who were wronged. There is still much work to be done in this area, and it may take some research to find the resources you need. The University of Chapel Hill’s Sonya Hayes Stone Center and the American Studies and African and Afro-American Studies programs may be helpful.

For additional back history, adults can 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.

For a more lighthearted education experience, Chatham Community Library is hosting a storytelling session.

Chatham Community Library will host “Tricksters, Triumphs and Tradition: Stories for Juneteenth” with Donna Washington on Monday, June 17, 2024

This program is free and open to the public.

WHAT: “Tricksters, Triumphs and Tradition: Stories for Juneteenth”
WHEN: Monday, June 17, 2024, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
WHERE: Chatham Community Library
                Holmes Family Meeting Room
                197 NC-87
                Pittsboro, NC 27312
WHO: Chatham community members are invited to celebrate Juneteenth with folklore from the African and African American storytelling tradition. Donna Washington will bring these wonderful stories to life. From the African trickster Anansi to that clever character Brer Rabbit, these stories are full of laughter, wit, and wisdom. They represent the stories that helped generations survive darkness by laughing through it and by standing strong against injustice. This program is suitable for families and children of all ages.

A highly animated performer, Durham-based Washington has been entertaining, educating, and inspiring audiences with her vocal pyrotechnics, elastic face, and deep characterizations that bring folklore, literary tales, and personal narratives to life for more than 30 years.

Residents may visit the libraries’ website www.chathamlibraries.org, or contact the library at (919) 545-8084 for more information on this and other events and programs.

And don’t forget to visit our booth at the…

Chatham County Juneteenth Black Arts Festival: June 15, 2024 @ 11:00 am – 5:00 pm

Community Organizing for Racial Equity (CORE) welcomes you to participate in their 7th Annual Juneteenth Black Arts Festival on Sat, Jun 15, 11am-5pm at the Chatham County Fairgrounds. This year’s theme is “Freedom to Dream”. Since 2018, the Juneteenth event has transformed – growing from their initial location accommodating 100 people to over 3000 attendees joining them from across the Triangle region.

Get your tickets here.

Juneteenth Black Arts Festival is a dedicated space of reverence for the impact of Black arts and culture on American culture. They commit to offering an opportunity for Black artists and entrepreneurs to build relationships and increase their exposure across communities. They honor the creative genius and spirit of excellence that prevails within the Black community because they recognize barriers that remain in place today, excluding them from mainstream business opportunities.

All are welcome to this free community event. They have quite the festival planned for this year’s celebration, which will highlight Black artists local and afar, educational opportunities about Juneteenth, the history of the celebration, the resilience of Black culture through Black arts, and a vision for liberation. Attendees can also enjoy live entertainment, art, a Black business expo, food trucks, a heritage walk, and kid’s activities – challenging stereotypes and building a sense of pride in the dynamic heritage of Black Americans and American culture.

Remember, get your tickets here.


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.”

Spend all summer celebrating Juneteenth and Black culture!
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