Today commemorates another Juneteenth observance. If you’ve never heard of the holiday, there is no time like the present to learn!
Set in 1943 Texas on a hot summer day, Freedom’s Gifts: A Juneteenth Story, by acclaimed author Valerie Wesley, tells the story of two young girls, June and her cousin Lillie celebrating Juneteenth, an African-American celebration that commemorates when Texas slaves were freed on June 19, 1865 (2 years after President Abe Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation).
Lillie, a pre-teen from New York, is none to pleased to be visiting family in Texas to celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday she describes as an “old timey” holiday. Lillie changes her tune however after hearing her great Aunt Marshall tell the story of how her sister Sophie was taken from her when they were both slaves, and how Sophie then found Aunt Marshall when Texas slaves were finally set free.
The book gives a realistic portrayal of children’s rebellious nature as well as the southern lifestyle of respecting one’s elders. And i’ts honest portrayal of living the pain of living through slavery, as described by Aunt Marshall’s character is realistic without being over-dramatic. The story also shines with watercolor illustrations by Sharon Wilson, whose pictures colorfully depict the south.
This story is one that every child should read, regardless of their race. Why? Because children and teenagers are so far removed today from the struggles of African-American’s of the past, that they are unaware of the significance of a holiday like Juneteenth. Freedom’s Gifts: A Juneteenth Story was released in 1997, and can be found in local libraries and online at Amazon.com
NOTE: Juneteenth is no longer just celebrated in Texas, but also throughout the United States, including our own nation’s capital, which hosts many Juneteenth celebrations this year along with its neighboring suburban communities. Information for Washington, DC Juneteenth events can be found at www.nationaljuneteenth.com/Calendar.html. To find Juneteenth celebrations in your state, visit http://www.juneteenth.us/events/. For more information about the Juneteenth holiday, visit http://www.nationaljuneteenth.com/.