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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.)

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