June 19, 1865, marked the first Juneteenth celebrations. Formerly enslaved Americans living in Texas got the official word that they were free men and women that day — more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Parades and festivals will mark this year's federal holiday with community observances nationwide sharing the story of Juneteenth.

But until relatively recently, many Americans were unaware of the holiday. That includes Kim Taylor, author of "A Flag for Juneteenth."

"In 2014, I went to a party with a friend to celebrate Juneteenth, and at that time I hadn't heard of Juneteenth," Taylor said on Under the Radar. "My parents didn't know about it, they didn't teach it, and it wasn't a part of my school curriculum."

Many schools didn't teach about the holiday, and it's a story that is not necessarily easy to explain to children. But some children’s book authors have managed to talk about the joyful celebration while tackling the uncomfortable reality of the history.

"I wanted to sure that people saw themselves. That there was a little girl like me who wanted to know more about Juneteenth, she saw herself in that story," said Dr. Arlisha Norwood, talking about her book, "The History of Juneteenth: A History Book for New Readers." "It's soldiers and freedom and slavery — all really complicated issues for children. And so, my approach to writing it was, I was writing for myself, the 6-year-old Arlisha Norwood who wanted to know more about Juneteenth."

Carole Boston Weatherford, author of "Juneteenth Jamboree," thinks about what not to include as much as what to put on the page.

"What I try to do is just give them details that will paint a picture, but won't provide necessarily the scary parts, or the parts they're not ready to process," Boston Weatherford said. "In this book, I don't talk at all about what slavery was like, I talk about what finding freedom was like. I have other books that get into more details about slavery. But I think with any children's book you figure out which details you want to include for the story you want to tell and the audience you want to share the story with."


Kim Taylor, speech-language pathologist at the Lexington School for the Deaf in New York City, textile artist and author of "A Flag for Juneteenth"

Dr. Arlisha Norwood, assistant professor at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and author of “The History of Juneteenth: A History Book for New Readers”

Carole Boston Weatherford, professor of English at Fayetteville State University, author of “Juneteenth Jamboree,” and more than 70 other books