For Juneteenth: Inspiring Reads by Black Authors

Posted on June 19, 2021

By The History Reader

As of January 1, 1863, all enslaved people in the United States were declared legally free by President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. However, as Union law could not be implemented in the Confederate-held south, slaves were not immediately emancipated. Freedom finally came on June 19, 1865, when the Union army arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, announcing that the enslaved population of the state was free by executive order. This day came to be known as “Juneteenth.”

This Juneteenth, join us in celebrating Black excellence with these immersive and gripping books from four inspiring writers in the Black community. From contributions to American fashion to an eloquent recounting of how justice fails communities of color, these four books teach, engage, and encourage growth in our quest for true equality.

PLUS: Scroll to the bottom for your chance to win all four books!

Born Bright: A Young Girl’s Journey from Nothing to Something in America

By C. Nicole Mason

This powerful memoir brings us on a highly emotional journey of Mason’s double life as a black girl born into impoverished living conditions who was also thriving in school in her advanced placement classes. Growing up, Mason had to learn to predict the unpredictable while also maintaining a “normal” life outside of her home. Through street smarts and book smarts, Mason eventually boarded a plane with nothing except $200 in her pocket in order to attend Howard University and pull herself out of poverty. Her memoir debunks the popular belief that the poor don’t help themselves enough, as Mason’s journey was a grueling and arduous one. 

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Real American: A Memoir

By Julie Lythcott-Haims

Real American unapologetically shares the story of the black, female experience. Julie Lythcott-Haims does not hesitate to be as blunt as possible when describing the racism she has faced, whether it was through direct insults or microaggressions. She dives deep into the mental impact that racism had upon her adolescent years, such as how it ruined her self-esteem both in and out of her home. Ultimately, Lythcott-Haims shares her story of self-acceptance, and though it took a while, she pulled herself out of her isolation and wrote this memoir to inspire the same in others.

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Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life, Freedom, and Justice

By Anthony Ray Hinton with Lara Love Hardin

In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was wrongly convicted of two counts of capital murder. It was a case of a mistaken identity, yet Hinton suffered for decades in prison because of it. Facing systemic racism with no money for adequate representation, Hinton was subsequently sentenced to death by electrocution. His first three years on Death Row were filled with despair and anger, but his mindset changed the longer he was on Death Row. Though he was physically imprisoned, he tried his best to get out of his mental prison, inspiring his fellow inmates. Finally, with the help of civil rights attorney and bestselling author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, Hinton won his release in 2015. This is his story.

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Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion

By Tanisha C. Ford

In Dressed in Dreams, Tanisha C. Ford uses the power of fashion to tackle racism and create acceptance in black girls. She investigates Afros and dashikis, go-go boots and hotpants of the sixties, hip hop’s baggy jeans and bamboo earrings, and the #BlackLivesMatter-inspired hoodies of today. Fashion is a personal subject for Ford, as she spent her youth experimenting with different styles in an attempt to fit in and avoid being beaten during the drug and gang wars of the 1980s. Ford also discusses the power of creating identity through fashion, and the pain of seeing black style appropriated by the mainstream fashion industry. This is a richly evocative narrative, sharing a lifelong fashion revolution, not just for Ford, but black people everywhere.

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