As America celebrates Juneteeth this year amid efforts to make the date an official holiday and debates over school discussions of critical race theory and the long-lasting effects of slavery, the story of Saturday's holiday emerges as one to brush up on.
Whether you're a longtime celebrator or seeking to learn more, reading books about the history and legacy of Juneteenth can help commemorate the 156th anniversary of the day enslaved people in Texas were read the Emancipation Proclamation, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed emancipation into law.
This year the celebration stands especially prominent as the United States confronts its deep-rooted history of systemic racism, a year after protests against racism and police brutality against Black people and the deaths of Black Americans George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Riah Milton, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, Daunte Wright, and more.
"We have to love our country enough to confront its complicated history, especially as we grapple with racial inequities and injustice right now," Wes Moore, a military veteran, CEO of Robin Hood, a nonprofit fighting poverty, and author of "Five Days", told USA TODAY last year. "This is a moment where it is critical to elevate Black voices and Black stories. Juneteenth is much more than a historic holiday: It’s a mandate to reflect on the progress that has been made but acknowledge how much more work we still have to do."
For those looking for ways to do just that, these are some of the books experts recommend reading.
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Learning more about the ways systemic racism is rooted in the country's history is the way to help heal the future, experts say.
"For adults, having a better understanding of slavery and its function in the American economy sets the stage for an appreciation of Juneteenth," Dr. Beverly Tatum, psychologist and author of "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race," told USA TODAY.
For a better understanding, start with these reads recommended by Tatum, Moore and best-seller lists about Juneteenth, slavery and Black history:
"The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism" by Edward E. Baptist
"Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America" by W. Caleb McDaniel
"Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America" by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
"On Juneteenth" by Annette Gordon-Reed
"They Were Her Property" by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
"Stony the Road" by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
"The Water Dancer" by Ta-Nehisi Coates
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead
"My Vanishing Country" by Bakari Sellers
"We Were Eight Years in Power" by Ta-Nehisi Coates
"Black Pain" by Terrie Williams
"The Fire Next Time" by James Baldwin
"Here I Stand" by Paul Robeson
"The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson
"The Strange Career of Jim Crow" by C. Vann Woodward
"Mirror to America" by John Hope Franklin
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For the younger crowd, picture and chapter books offer a historical look to spark conversations at home about America at large.
"We’re in the midst of an unprecedented protest movement calling for change," Moore said. "Not only does Juneteenth – a day that has never received the attention or prominence it deserves amid our holiday and history – feel different, but the conversations we are having, the collective progress we are all working toward, feels different as well."
Some expert-recommended and best-selling book options for kids and teenagers include:
"All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom" by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
"Juneteenth for Mazie" written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper
"The Story of Juneteenth: An Interactive History Adventure" by Steven Otfinoski
"Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life" by Ashley Bryan
"Juneteenth Jamboree" by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan
"Black History for Beginners" by Denise Dennis, illustrated by Susan Willmarth
"Wagon Wheels" by Barbara Brenner, illustrated by Don Bolognese
"Freedom's a-Callin Me" by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Rod Brown
"Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave" by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier
"Escape From Slavery: Five Journeys to Freedom" by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Charles Lilly
"Sulwe" by Lupita Nyong'o
"Brown Girl Dreaming" by Jacqueline Woodson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Juneteenth: 25 books experts recommend to learn about slavery