Libraries mark Juneteenth with resources for African American culture and history


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In celebration of Juneteenth on Sunday, June 19, Penn State University Libraries is offering a roster of resources, including books, articles, films, artifacts, exhibits and more, who raise those voices – throughout history and today – who celebrate African-American culture and promote the work of dismantling racism, with the goal of providing educational resources and ongoing dialogue.

What started as a celebration of the end of slavery in Texas, Juneteenth – an amalgamation of the words “June” and “nineteenth” – has become a holiday commemorating the emancipation from slavery across the states -United. Also called Jubilation Day or Freedom Day, Juneteenth refers to the Monday in 1865, more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, when Union soldiers arrived in Galvaston, Texas, and announced the liberation of more than 3 million American slaves.

Today Juneteenth is celebrated much like the 4th of July, with picnics and parties, but the deeper meaning of the day is a strong reminder of our shared history of oppression and slavery.

The following list brings together resources to amplify the voices and scholarship of Black and African American people and communities, available as links from 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 useful resources for researching African American Studies.
  • Black Lives Matter LibGuide: A library guide serving as a one-stop resource for information about historical and current discrimination against African Americans in the United States, Pennsylvania, and the Greater Philadelphia area. Created by the faculty and library staff of the Vairo Library at Penn State Brandywine.
  • Charles L. Blockson Collection of African-Americana and the African Diaspora: A multidisciplinary collection comprising books, magazines, photographs, manuscripts, sheet music, postcards, record albums, and artifacts of the African experience at United States, Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, dating from 1632 to the present.
  • African Diaspora Database 1860-Present: A worldwide collection comprising 100,000 pages of primary sources, rare books, government documents, letters, periodicals, videos, and more. An essential resource for understanding Black history and culture, the database sheds light on African diaspora migrations, communities and ideologies through the voices of people of African descent.
  • Colored Conventions Project: an interdisciplinary research center that uses digital tools to bring to life the buried history of black organization in the 19th century. Reflecting the collective nature of 19th century color conventions, CCP uses innovative and inclusive partnerships to locate, transcribe and archive the documentary record related to this almost forgotten history and to curate engaging digital exhibits that highlight its important events and themes. The Colored Conventions Project is part of the new Center for Black Digital Research, a collaboration of the College of the Liberal Arts and university libraries.
  • Dozens of African American studies titles available through Penn State University Press, the University’s publishing arm, including Carole Lynn Stewart’s “Temperance and Cosmopolitanism: African American Reformers in the Atlantic World,” published this year.
  • Annual Barbara Jordan Lecture and Nelson Mandela Lecture of the Penn State Africana Research Center: Recognizing and Presenting to the Penn State Community 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 Categories of Protest for Race and Social Justice, Protest Against war, LGBTQ advocacy, women’s rights, organized labor and activism today.
  • Eberly Family Special Collections Library: “A Mighty Long Way”: Black Representation in American Politics digital exhibit, highlighting many African Americans who have held office or impacted the American political system, #LovecraftCountry : Primary Sources and Published Materials at Penn State digital exhibit, takes visitors through the HBO show, episode by episode, and focuses on Black and LGBTQIA+ creators and experiences. and Black Student Alumni Oral History Project, an account of black student experiences at Penn State from 1969 to 1971.
  • Race and Diversity in America LibGuide: A resource list compiled by faculty and staff at the 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 struggle for freedom and their contemporary legacies . The center also houses The Journal of the Civil War Era and The People’s Contest, a digital archive of the Civil War era to promote research into the lived experience of Pennsylvanians between 1851 and 1874, including a bibliographic database unique statewide hidden collections, digitized manuscripts and contextual essays. The archive website is a collaborative project of the Richards Center and University Libraries.
  • Democracy Works Podcast: From the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State College of the Liberal Arts, a network of podcasts that examine what’s broken in our democracy and how we can work together to fix it.

In addition to many black studies and DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility) titles, and black historical journals currently being added to the library catalog, University Libraries has hired its first Curator of African American Collections, Patrice Green, in 2021. According to Jennifer Meehan, manager of Penn State’s Eberly Family Special Collections Library, Green’s position will play a key and collaborative role in building, managing, supporting research and teaching and promoting the use of and engagement with collections documenting African American life and culture across all faculties, and library faculty and staff.

In 2019, Pennsylvania recognized June 19 as Juneteenth National Freedom Day, and in June 2021 President Joe Biden signed into law a law designating June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a federal holiday. Penn State will officially observe it as a college holiday beginning in 2023.

The significance of Juneteenth is indisputable, as evidenced by historical records and recent protests taking place around the world. The above resources are offered to invite dialogue, further scholarship and scholarly research on issues of race and equality.


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