On June 19, 1865, enslaved African Americans were notified of their freedom by Union troops in Galveston Bay, TX, two years after the the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. This day is widely celebrated as the end of slavery in America and is known as Emancipation Day or “Juneteenth”.
It is always important to learn more our country’s past, however, it is becoming more poignant to understand more from our tragic past. This is more than just another anti-racism booklist. These are book recommendations that talk about a topic some people are uncomfortable to discuss. To make way for a better future, we have to learn more our past. And these are some books that will help you get started:
Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Tonya Bolden
This is a story about America during and after Reconstruction, one of history’s most pivotal and misunderstood chapters. In a stirring account of emancipation, the struggle for citizenship and national reunion, and the advent of racial segregation, the renowned Harvard scholar delivers a book that is illuminating and timely. Real-life accounts drive the narrative, spanning the half century between the Civil War and Birth of a Nation. Here, you will come face-to-face with the people and events of Reconstruction’s noble democratic experiment, its tragic undermining, and the drawing of a new “color line” in the long Jim Crow era that followed. In introducing young readers to them, and to the resiliency of the African American people at times of progress and betrayal, Professor Gates shares a history that remains vitally relevant today. (Credit: Scholastic)
This is such an important nonfiction book that needs to be read by not only teen readers but by everyone. This discusses in detail about a dark part of American history, a part that a lot of people tend to forget and don’t want to dwell on. Just by reading this well-researched book, I was able to discover things that I didn’t know about black history. Unfortunately, they don’t discuss this as much as they should in school so it is up for parents, and educators to take the initiative to encourage their students and their children to learn more about this part of history and this is the book to do it.
The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B Du Bois
This landmark book is a founding work in the literature of black protest. W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963) played a key role in developing the strategy and program that dominated early 20th-century black protest in America. In this collection of essays, first published together in 1903, he eloquently affirms that it is beneath the dignity of a human being to beg for those rights that belong inherently to all mankind. He also charges that the strategy of accommodation to white supremacy advanced by Booker T. Washington, then the most influential black leader in America, would only serve to perpetuate black oppression.
Publication of The Souls of Black Folk was a dramatic event that helped to polarize black leaders into two groups: the more conservative followers of Washington and the more radical supporters of aggressive protest. Its influence cannot be overstated. It is essential reading for everyone interested in African-American history and the struggle for civil rights in America. (Credit: Penguin Classics)
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs
The true story of an individual’s struggle for self-identity, self-preservation, and freedom, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl remains among the few extant slave narratives written by a woman. This autobiographical account chronicles the remarkable odyssey of Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897) whose dauntless spirit and faith carried her from a life of servitude and degradation in North Carolina to liberty and reunion with her children in the North. (Credit: Dover Editions)
The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Hollis Robbins
This collection comprises work from forty-nine writers arranged into sections of memoir, poetry and essays on feminism, education and the legacy of black women writers. Many of these pieces engage with social movements like abolition, women’s suffrage, temperance and civil rights, but the thematic centre is black women’s intellect and personal ambition. The diverse selection includes well-known writers like Sojourner Truth, Hannah Crafts and Harriet Jacobs, as well as lesser-known writers like Ella Sheppard, who offers a firsthand account of life in a world-famous singing group. Taken together, these incredible works insist that the writing of black women writers be read, remembered and addressed. (Credit: Penguin Classics)
On Slavery and Abolitionism by Sarah Grimké and Angelina Emily Grimké
The daughters of a wealthy and respected Charlestown judge, Sarah and Angelina Grimké grew up with a life of ease, facilitated by the convenience of slavery. Yet their close proximity to inhumane cruelty bred their revulsion towards the practice of slavery, and both sisters rejected their upbringing, moved to Philadelphia and embraced Quakerism.
Led by Angelina’s gifted oration, they toured the country as the American Anti-Slavery Society’s first female agents. They passionately demonstrated the ability of women to make valuable contributions to political and social change, setting a precedent that would reverberate through the 20th century. (Credit: Penguin Classics)
In The Woman of Colour, Olivia Fairfield, the biracial heroine and orphaned daughter of an English slaveholder and an African princess, must travel to England, and as a condition of her father’s will, either marry her Caucasian first cousin, Augustus Merton, or become dependent on his mercenary elder brother and sister-in-law. As Olivia decides between these two conflicting possibilities, her letters recount her impressions of Britain and its inhabitants as only a black woman could record them. She gives scathing descriptions of London, Bristol, and the British, as well as progressive critiques of race, racism, and slavery. The narrative follows her life from the heights of her arranged marriage to its swift descent into annulment, destitution, and potential debauchery, only to culminate in her resurrection as a self-proclaimed “widow” who flouts the conventional marriage plot. (Credit: Broadview Press Inc)
Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Union During the Civil War by Thomas B. Allen and illustrated by Carla Bauer
Thomas B. Allen, author of the award-winning George Washington, Spymaster, has sifted through military and intelligence archives, diaries, and little-known memoirs from ex-slaves to bring to light new facts about the role Harriet and other black spies played in helping the Union win the war.
This detailed account combined with powerful archival images supplemented with woodcuts by Carla Bauer, maps, a time line, footnotes, and extensive quote sources make this incredibly detailed account an excellent resource for report writing as well as an exciting true-life adventure. (Credit: National Geographic Children Books)
I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery by Cynthia Grady and illustrated by Michele Wood
This rich and intricate collection of poems chronicles the various experiences of American slaves. Drawn together through imagery drawn from quilting and fiber arts, each poem is spoken from a different perspective: a house slave, a mother losing her daughter to the auction block, a blacksmith, a slave fleeing on the Underground Railroad.
This moving and eloquent set of poems, brought to life by vivid and colorful artwork from Michele Wood, offers a timeless witness to the hardship endured by America?’s slaves. Each poem is supplemented by a historical note. (Credit: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers)
Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Freedom edited by Ira Berlin and James H. Billington
In 1998, The New Press published Remembering Slavery, a book-and-tape set that offered a startling first-person history of slavery. Using excerpts from the thousands of interviews conducted with ex-slaves in the 1930s by researchers working with the Federal Writers’ Project, the astonishing audiotapes made available the only known recordings of people who actually experienced enslavement—recordings that had gathered dust in the Library of Congress until they were rendered audible for the first time specifically for this set.
Remembering Slavery received the kind of commercial attention seldom accorded projects of this nature—nationwide critical and review coverage as well as extensive coverage on prime-time television, including Good Morning America, Nightline, CBS Sunday Morning, and CNN. Reviewers called the set “chilling … [and] riveting” (Publishers Weekly) and “something, truly, truly new” (The Village Voice).
Now the groundbreaking book component of the set is available for a new generation of readers. (Credit: The New Press)