President Biden signed legislation in 2021 that declared Juneteenth, June 19, a federal holiday, following the global outcry from George Floyd and Breonna Taylor‘s murders at the hands of white policemen.
Since then, more people have wanted to know about where the holiday stems from, and how its echoes show up in present-day life for many Black Americans.
Juneteenth is defined as a holiday that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the US. The holiday was initially widely celebrated in Texas, where on that date in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War, slaves were declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation.
The New York Times pointed out that about two months after the Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va., Gordon Granger got to Galveston, Texas, to tell the enslaved African Americans there that they were free.
Although it is now celebrated by corporations with limited edition products emblazoned with African/Juneteenth branding, the holiday was originally recognized by Black families in the south with cookouts and parties.
While the holiday should be ushered in with joy, it’s also important to learn more about its origin, and how the remnants of it still shows up in everyday life. There’s been a significant uptick in resources in the last few years—fortunately, we’ve rounded up some of the books, podcasts and broadcasts we think are worth paying attention to leading up to Juneteenth.
Book Recommendation: How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America by Manning Marable
Michael Eric Dyson says, “In this new edition of his classic text . . . Marable can challenge a new generation to find solutions to the problems that constrain the present but not our potential to seek and define a better future.”
Initially in 1983, its core message is still relevant as our nation continue to grapple with the effects of socio-racial inequities stemming from slavery. It’s described as an exploration of the “intersection of racism and class in the United States.”
Book Recommendation: We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Celebrated writer and culture commentator Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book “We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy”
is a group of essays he wrote for The Atlantic, and follows his thoughts on how the country responded to and changed after President Obama was elected.
The essays trace the deep racism that was evoked following his rise to political power, and how it harkens back to slavery.
Book Recommendation: You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience by Tarana Burke nad Brene Brown
Powerhouses Tarana Burke and Brene’ Brown joined forces to bring together a collection
of Black writers, organizers, and academics to share their thoughts on vulnerability and shame resilience. Many of the essays shared are roadmaps that take the readers on a journey from slavery and emancipation to modern-day culture that often signals oppression.
The passages also highlight stories of empowerment and the steps the Black writers took to realize their best selves.
Book Recommendation: Half Has Never Been Told by Edward E. Baptist
Edward E Baptist wrote this groundbreaking history lesson that pulls the curtain back on the details that were never spoken about around slavery. The Half That Has Never Been Told
features testimonies from the survivors of slavery, plantation records, and other records that depict a version of the truth that had yet to be uncovered.
“Americans tend to cast slavery as a pre-modern institution — the nation’s original sin, perhaps, but isolated in time and divorced from America’s later success. But to do so robs the millions who suffered in bondage of their full legacy. As historian Edward E. Baptist reveals in The Half Has Never Been Told, the expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American independence drove the evolution and modernization of the United States. In the span of a single lifetime, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out tobacco plantations to a continental cotton empire, and the United States grew into a modern, industrial, and capitalist economy.”
Podcast Recommendation: Louder Than a Riot Hosted by Sidney Madden and Rodney Carmichael
Hosts Sidney Madden and Rodney Carmichael, Louder Than A Riot
discussed various avenues of Blackness including slavery, hip hop and mass incarceration in America.
Platformed on NPR, it’s described as an exploration of different artists’ stories to examine different aspects of the criminal justice system that disproportionately affects Black Americas and, in doing so, reshapes negative narratives about hip hop and its ties to the Black community.”
Film Recommendation: Two Distant Strangers starring Joey Bada$$ and Andrew Howard
In this Oscar-winning short film produced by Van Lathan, a young man on his way home gets stuck in a time loop that forces him to relive a deadly run-in with a White cop.
This harrowing tale was released not too long after the George Floyd murder, and explores the deep emotional trauma that comes with Black people’s interactions with law enforcement.
Series Recommendation: Watchmen starring Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
As Alexis Nedd eloquently pointed out
, HBO’s ‘Watchmen’ explores America’s super-legacy of white supremacy.
Regina King leads the cast of the series, which spotlights the Tulsa Massacre to outline how the tragedy was a pivotal point of America’s history of racial violence and injustice. A reimagining of the classic graphic novel by the same name initially released in 1986, it perfectly encapsulated the long-term effects of racism on Black people living in America. The show’s premise was so timely, HBO made it viewable for free in 2020 despite the series cancellation in 2019. It’s definitely worth the watch.
Film Recommendation: Miss Juneteenth starring Nicole Beharie
This critically acclaimed indie film follows Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie), a single mother of a rebellious teenager, the sole leader of a local restaurant Wayman’s BBQ & Lounge. Also a former beauty beauty queen Miss Juneteenth––she realizes life took a turn down a path she didn’t expect. But, she refuses to give up and vows to continue the legacy of Juneteenth.