Libraries marks Juneteenth with resources for historical, present context

June 12, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In celebration of Juneteenth on June 19, Penn State University Libraries has compiled a listing of resources, including books, articles, films, artifacts and more, that uplift those voices — throughout history and today ­— who document the systemic racism that plagues African Americans and People of Color, with the intention of education and working toward anti-racism.

cover art showing silhouette of man with arms raised to play piano and mouth open to sing with face tilted up toward brightly lit street light

This striking cover art, by Miquel Covarrubias, of Langston Hughes’ collection of poems titled “The Weary Blues” (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1931) is in the University Libraries’ Charles L. Blockson Collection of African-Americana and the African Diaspora.This copy is unique because it was owned and annotated by James W. Ivy, the third editor of “The Crisis,” the official publication of the NAACP. Kevin Young, director at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, wrote a short piece on the importance of “The Weary Blues.” 

IMAGE: Penn State

What began as a celebration of the emancipation of slavery in Texas, Juneteenth — an amalgamation of the words June and nineteenth — has become a holiday commemorating the end of slavery throughout the United States. Also called Emancipation Day, Juneteenth refers to the day in 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, that Union soldiers arrived in Galvaston, Texas, and announced the liberation of enslaved people.

Today, Juneteenth is celebrated much as the Fourth of July, with picnics and parties. But there is a deeper meaning to the day, when the entirety of America’s more than 3 million slaves finally received word of their freedom, that seems especially urgent today, as recent events have caused many Americans to seek out educational resources to disrupt racism. 

The following guides gather resources for education and discussion, available as links from the University Libraries, its partners and affiliates. It is by no means exhaustive, but serves as a starting point: 

  • African American Studies LibGuide: A library guide to resources helpful for research in African American Studies.
  • Black Lives Matter LibGuide: A library guide serving as a centralized resource for information about historical and current discrimination of African Americans in the United States, Pennsylvania and the Greater Philadelphia Region. Created by the Libraries’ faculty and staff at Vairo Library at Penn State Brandywine.
  • Charles L. Blockson Collection of African-Americana and the African Diaspora: A multidisciplinary collection including books, magazines, photographs, manuscripts, sheet music, postcards, record albums and artifacts of the African experience in the United States, Latin America, Caribbean and Africa, dating from 1632 to the present.
  • Colored Conventions Project: An interdisciplinary research hub that uses digital tools to bring the buried history of 19th-century Black organizing to life. Mirroring the collective nature of the nineteenth-century Colored Conventions, CCP uses innovative, inclusive partnerships to locate, transcribe, and archive the documentary record related to this nearly forgotten history and to curate engaging digital exhibits that highlight its significant events and themes. The Colored Conventions Project is moving to Penn State as part of a new Center for Digital Black Research, a collaboration of the College of the Liberal Arts and the University Libraries.
  • The Penn State Africana Research Center’s annual Barbara Jordan Lecture and Nelson Mandela Lecture: To recognize and introduce the Penn State community to the scholarship of African American civil rights activists.
  • Penn State Educational Activism Archive: Documenting a century of student and faculty voices for change, including artifacts from the Eberly Family Special Collections Archive and protest categories for race and social justice, antiwar protest, LGBTQ advocacy, women’s rights, organized labor and activism today.
  • Race and Diversity in America LibGuide: A resource list compiled by faculty and staff of Montague Law Library at Penn State Dickinson Law with links for race relations, African American history and the law.
  • The George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center: A unique resource for interpreting and reflecting on life in 19th-century America, with a focus on slavery, war, the freedom struggle, and their contemporary legacies. The center is also home to The Journal of the Civil War Era and The People’s Contest, a Civil War-era digital archive to promote research into the lived experience of Pennsylvanians between 1851 and 1874, including a unique statewide bibliographic database of hidden collections, digitized manuscripts and contextual essays. The archival website is a collaborative project of the Richards Center and the University Libraries. 
  • Democracy Works podcast: From Penn State College of the Liberal Arts’ McCourtney Institute for Democracy, a network of podcasts that examine what’s broken in our democracy and how we can work together to fix it. 

Though Juneteenth has not yet been declared a national holiday, its significance is indisputable as reflected in the historical record and in protest unfolding across the globe today. The above resources are offered to invite dialogue and continued scholarship and education about issues of race and equality.

Last Updated September 03, 2020