Poetry for Juneteenth
The Academy of American Poets has published a list of poems by African Americans to commemorate Juneteenth (June 19, 1865), the day on which the actual end of slavery occurred and is celebrated.
Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, two years before Juneteenth. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, the beginning of the end of the Civil War, occurred in April 9, 1865. Five days later, on April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated. The Union General Gordon Grainger entered the port of Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, and read the order depicted in the photo. That order announced that the Emancipation Proclamation was in force in the state of Texas.
The poems listed below don't necessarily speak to Juneteenth specifically, but they do reflect the lives, the history, and the hopes of African Americans.
“Alone” by Maya Angelou
“The Dawn’s Awake!” by Otto Leland Bohanan
“litany” by Mahogany L. Browne
“Family Reunion” by Rita Dove
“To America” by James Weldon Johnson
“These Poems” by June Jordan
“Eve Remembering” by Toni Morrison
“Mercy, Mercy, Me” by John Murillo
“The Bronze Legacy” by Effie Lee Newsome
“Everything That Ever Was” by Tracy K. Smith
(Photo is byJennifer Rangubphai and depicts General Order No. 3 -- Juneteenth Memorial Monument -- at the George Washington Carver Museum in Austin, Texas. Used under CC license. For a larger photo and more explanation, click here.)