Did you know that there is more than one Independence Day celebrated in the US?
Juneteenth also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Cel-Liberation Day, is an American holiday celebrated annually on June 19 that commemorates the ending of slavery in the US. It was on June 19, 1865, when Union general Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston, Texas, that all previously enslaved people were free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
The orders also established that the owner/slave dynamic that existed before and during the war would now be employer/employee—and for all labor to be compensated with wages. On that day in 1865, legal emancipation reached some of the farthest corners of the country, and African Americans saw a complete, legal release from slavery. For many, it was a first glimpse of freedom, amends, and hope.
By the 21st century, Juneteenth was celebrated in most major cities across the United States. Activists are campaigning for the United States Congress to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday. Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in 47 of the 50 U.S. states.
This year, the significance of the holiday is amplified by the renewed fight against racial injustice in America. Over the course of more than 2 centuries, slavery left a deep legacy of inequality and racism, one that is sadly visible even today 155 years after emancipation.
To commemorate Juneteenth, here are some ebooks on the history of slavery and emancipation that will allow us to reflect on these shameful chapters in American history.
After all without an understanding of the past, it is difficult to grapple with the present.
Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston & Alice Walker
Hurston brilliantly illuminates the horror and injustices of slavery as she 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.
Foner overturns numerous assumptions growing out of the traditional understanding of the period, which is based almost exclusively on white sources and shaped by (often unconscious) racism. Drawing on a wide range of long-neglected documents, he places a new emphasis on the centrality of the black experience to an understanding of the era. We see African Americans as active agents in overthrowing slavery, in helping win the Civil War, and–even more actively–in shaping Reconstruction and creating a legacy long obscured and misunderstood.
The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist
Baptist reveals that slavery and its expansion were central to the evolution and modernization of our nation in the 18th and 19th centuries, catapulting the US into a modern, industrial and capitalist economy. Through forced migration, quotas, and torture, slave owners extracted continual increases in efficiency from their slaves making competition with American cotton fields near impossible. Financial innovations and banks, meanwhile, helped feed credit to the cotton plantations, spurring on economic expansion and confirming for enslavers and their political leaders that their livelihood, and the American economy, depended on cotton.
Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America by Catherine Kerrison
The remarkable untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s three daughters—two white and free, one black and enslaved—and the divergent paths they forged in a newly independent America.
Narrative of Sojourner Truth by Sojourner Truth
This remarkable narrative, first published in 1850, offers a rare glimpse into the little-documented world of Northern slavery. Truth recounts her life as a slave in rural New York, her separation from her family, her religious conversion, and her life as a traveling preacher during the 1840s. She also describes her work as a social reformer, counselor of former slaves, and sponsor of a black migration to the West.
New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America by Wendy Warren
While earlier histories of slavery largely confine themselves to the South, Warren’s exploration links the growth of the northern colonies to the slave trade and examines the complicity of New England’s leading families, demonstrating how the region’s economy derived its vitality from the slave trading ships coursing through its ports.
The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation by David Brion Davis
Davis offers original and penetrating insights into what slavery and emancipation meant to Americans. He vividly portrays the dehumanizing impact of slavery, as well as the generally unrecognized importance of freed slaves to abolition. Most of all, Davis presents the age of emancipation as a model for reform and as probably the greatest landmark of willed moral progress in human history.
Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation by Ira Berlin & Marc Favreau
Using excerpts from the thousands of interviews conducted with ex-slaves in the 1930s by researchers working with the Federal Writer’s Project, this astonishing collection makes available in print the only known recordings of people who actually experienced slavery–recordings that had gathered dust in the Library of Congress until they were rendered audible for the first time specifically for this collection.
The newly discovered slave narratives of John Washington and Wallace Turnage—and their harrowing and empowering journey to emancipation.
In this ‘precise and eloquent work’ Blackmon brings to light one of the most shameful chapters in American history – an ‘Age of Neoslavery’ that thrived in the aftermath of the Civil War through the dawn of World War II. Using a vast record of original documents and personal narratives, Blackmon unearths the lost stories of slaves and their descendants who journeyed into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation and then back into the shadow of involuntary servitude thereafter.
Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America by W. Caleb McDaniel
The unforgettable saga of one enslaved woman’s fight for justice—and reparations. Born into slavery, Henrietta Wood was taken to Cincinnati and legally freed in 1848. In 1853, a Kentucky deputy sheriff named Zebulon Ward colluded with Wood’s employer, abducted her, and sold her back into bondage. She remained enslaved throughout the Civil War, giving birth to a son in Mississippi and never forgetting who had put her in this position. By 1869, Wood had obtained her freedom for a second time and returned to Cincinnati, where she sued Ward for damages in 1870. Astonishingly, after eight years of litigation, Wood won her case: in 1878, a Federal jury awarded her $2,500.
Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup & Dr. Sue Eakin Audiobook
This riveting landmark autobiography transports us to 1840s New York, Louisiana, and Washington, DC, to experience the kidnapping and twelve-year bondage of Solomon Northup, a free man of color. For twelve years, his fine mind captures the reality of slavery in stunning detail, and listeners learn about the characters that populated plantation society and the intrigues of the bayou—from the collapse of a slave rebellion resulting in mass hangings due to traitorous slave Lew Cheney to the tragic abuse of his friend Patsey, brought about by Mrs. Epps’ jealousy of her husband’s sexual exploitation of the pretty young slave.
The devastating story of how fugitive slaves drove the nation to the Civil War. These slaves exposed the contradiction between the myth that slavery was a benign institution and the reality that a nation based on the principle of human equality was in fact a prison-house in which millions of Americans had no rights at all. By awakening northerners to the true nature of slavery, and by enraging southerners who demanded the return of their human “property,” fugitive slaves forced the nation to confront the truth about itself.
For audiovisual enlightenment, Hoopla has these great television documentaries on slavery, the Civil War and history of the African Americans.
-Archana. Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian