Juneteenth Reading List

Last updated: May 29, 2023, at 2:37 p.m. PT

Originally published: May 29, 2023, at 1:33 p.m. PT

"Freedom Day - June 19. Juneteenth Reading Challenge" next to an illustration of a stack of books and images of a few related books

The significance of Juneteenth, a momentous day in American history, cannot be overstated. This federal holiday commemorates the emancipation of enslaved individuals in the United States and serves as a powerful reminder of the enduring struggle for freedom. As we approach this year's Juneteenth celebration, we invite you to join us on a reading challenge* that will deepen your understanding of this pivotal historical event.   

Unraveling Juneteenth: A Triumph of Freedom 

Juneteenth, derived from the combination of "June" and "nineteenth," signifies the day when news of the end of slavery finally reached enslaved people in Texas and other southwestern states. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had officially declared African Americans free two years earlier, the enforcement of this proclamation varied across different regions. It wasn't until June 19, 1865, that Union soldiers, led by General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas, armed with rifles and General Order No. 3 to ensure the emancipation of all enslaved. This proclamation marked the birth of Juneteenth and ignited jubilant celebrations known as Jubilees, reminiscent of the biblical jubilee in which enslaved people were liberated. 

Empower Your Journey: The Reading Challenge 

To fully embrace the spirit of Juneteenth, we present you with an exciting reading challenge. Review a list of books that shed light on the African American experience, explore the struggles and triumphs of those who fought for freedom, and delve into the cultural significance of Juneteenth. We hope you will embark on a profound journey of discovery, empathy, and appreciation by immersing yourself in these captivating narratives. Read at least three books from Essence's complete list of recommended books.


How to Participate and Win a Free Y T-Shirt

Joining the Juneteenth reading challenge is simple. Follow these steps to enter to win one Y t-shirt. 

  1. Visit the Essence website and explore the curated book list
    • *Please Note: Some of these books are intended for a mature adult audience and may have been challenged or made the banned book list in different parts of the country. The Seattle Public Library's entire collection of e-books and audiobooks for young adults ages 13-26 living anywhere in the U.S. by receiving a Books Unbanned card.

      Content Warning: Some of these books may contain traumatic content and highlight the harmful actions and impacts on Black people throughout history. 

  2. Select at least three books that intrigue you the most. Check out resources at your local library to check out print copies or audiobooks! Get a free library card at Seattle Public Library or the King County Library System
  3. Commit to reading those books before June 30, 2023. 
  4. Document your progress by sharing your thoughts and reflections, and email us with your entry at equityandjustice@seattleymca.org.

The first ten participants to complete the challenge and you'll receive a free Equity & Justice Y t-shirt as a token of appreciation for your engagement. Be sure to share your journey with us on social media by tagging us with your reads @YMCAseattle on Facebook and Instagram or @YMCA of Greater Seattle on LinkedIn. 


Celebrate Juneteenth Together 

By participating in this reading challenge, not only will you enrich your own understanding of Juneteenth and Black history, but you'll also contribute to a collective celebration of freedom, equity, and justice for all. Let's unite as a community to honor the resilience, strength, and determination of those who sacrificed for the daily liberties we enjoy. Share your progress with us, engage in meaningful conversations, and spread awareness about the importance of Juneteenth.