Last year, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, making Juneteenth a federal holiday — the first time a new federal holiday has been introduced since Martin Luther King Jr. Day became one in 1983. While many Americans have been celebrating Juneteenth for decades (or even a century), for others the holiday on June 19 is still new and there is much to learn about what it is and what it signifies.

Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed enslaved people there that they were free, some two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation. Sometimes called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, the holiday has a rich history of celebration, remembrance and education that is continuing today on a larger, national scale.

VCU News asked faculty, as well as staff from VCU Libraries, to suggest books that help readers understand and celebrate Juneteenth and all that it represents. Among the contributors was Dean Irene Herold. Find her review along with other faculty recommendations here.

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