Juneteenth Reads: Exploring Slavery and Emancipation

Happy Juneteenth! Today we’re celebrating the emancipation of slavery in the US by reflecting on this crucial piece of American history. To help you learn more about the history of slavery and emancipation in the US we’ve compiled a reading list of some must-read titles, but you can also browse our full African American studies list here.

Illusions of Emancipation: The Pursuit of Freedom and Equality in the Twilight of Slavery by Joseph P. Reidy

Bancroft Prize, Columbia University
2020 John Nau Book Prize in American Civil War Era History, John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia
Finalist, 2020 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

“Reidy peers into the lives of enslaved people during emancipation, paying special attention to their experiences under Confederate authority.”—Choice Reviews

“Reidy’s important book shows that the movement toward freedom was neither linear nor inevitable but was and must be constant. In that, he speaks to not only history but our own day.”—Library Journal

At the Threshold of Liberty: Women, Slavery, and Shifting Identities in Washington, D.C. by Tamika Y. Nunley

2021 Letitia Woods Brown Prize, Association for Black Women Historians
2022 Pauli Murray Book Prize, African American Intellectual History Society
2021 Mary Kelley Prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic

“A focused study on the way that Black women have transcended slavery. . . . Well-researched.”—Library Journal

“In this excellent book Nunley offers a roadmap for historians to take Black women’s visions of freedom as seriously as their successes.”—Washington History

Administering Freedom: The State of Emancipation after the Freedmen’s Bureau by Dale Kretz

2023 Civil War and Reconstruction Book Award, Organization of American Historians

Administering Freedom is an exceptional piece of scholarship—a story both fascinating and largely untold . . . . superb.”—Matthew E. Stanley, Jacobin

“In an important, engaging, and well-researched book, Dale Kretz makes a valuable contribution to this scholarship and offers a distinctive, innovative perspective on African Americans’ long battle for full citizenship.”—Journal of American History

Beyond Slavery’s Shadow: Free People of Color in the South by Warren Eugene Milteer Jr.

2022 Charles S. Sydnor Award, Southern Historical Association
2022 Ragan Old North State Award for Nonfiction, North Carolina Literary and Historical Association

“Synthesizing local histories and individual stories, Milteer opens to interested readers a fresh vista of a more complicated history of the South and the position of people of color, with implications for the 21st century.”—Library Journal

“Milteer demonstrates how free people of color pursued and often achieved meaningful freedom in an oppressive society and provides a welcome update to the broader discussion of freedom and slavery in the antebellum American South.”—Journal of Social History

Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South, by Barbara Krauthamer

Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South by Barbara Krauthamer

“In this compelling study Krauthamer successfully demonstrates black Americans’ struggle for their liberation and subsequent rights as citizens.”—Southern Historian

“Readers will find the most detailed picture yet of the lives of enslaved peoples living in the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations.”—Journal of American History