Graphic Novels and Comics to Celebrate Juneteenth

The Juneteenth Flag, consisting of white star and burst on a blue and red background

Celebrate Juneteenth

Last year, on June 17, President Biden made a big announcement. For the first time in the nation's history, Juneteenth (June 19) would be celebrated as a national holiday. Sometimes known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, the holiday marks the historic moment in 1865—nearly two full years after the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation—when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of slavery in the American South.

SJPL's Graphic Novel Making Contest Committee has put together a selection of comics, graphic novels, and illustrated books featuring Black characters, creators, and stories to celebrate the holiday.

 

For Kids 0-7

I Affirm Me: The ABCs of Inspiration for Black Kids, book cover

I Affirm Me: The ABCs of Inspiration for Black Kids Nyasha Williams

Presents an alphabet book of positive affirmations to inspire and promote self-esteem in Black children.

Hands Up!, book cover

Hands Up! Breanna J. McDaniel

This triumphant picture book recasts a charged phrase as part of a black girl's everyday life—hands up for a hug, hands up in class, hands up for a high five--before culminating in a moment of resistance at a protest march.

Antiracist Baby, book cover

Antiracist Baby Ibram X. Kendi

Illustrations and rhyming text present nine steps Antiracist Baby can take to improve equity, such as opening our eyes to all skin colors and celebrating all our differences.

The Me I Choose to Be, book cover

The Me I Choose to Be Natasha Tarpley

The possibilities are endless in this uplifting ode to the power of potential. With lyrical text by bestselling author Natasha Anastasia Tarpley and images by Regis and Kahran Bethencourt—the team behind Creative Soul Photography—each page of The Me I Choose To Be is an immersive call for self-love and highlights the inherent beauty of all Black and brown children. 

For Kids 8-12

Shuri: Wakanda Forever, book cover

Shuri: Wakanda Forever Nnedi Okorafor

The Black Panther's techno-genius sister stars in her own incredible adventures! T'Challa has disappeared, and Wakanda expects Shuri to lead their great nation in his absence! But she's happiest in a lab surrounded by her inventions. She'd rather be testing gauntlets than throwing them down! So it's time for Shuri to rescue her brother yet again — with a little help from Storm, Rocket Raccoon and Groot! But what happens when her outer-space adventure puts Africa at risk from an energy-sapping alien threat? Then, Shuri heads to America to investigate a lead, with Ms. Marvel and Miles "Spider-Man" Morales along for the ride! But with her people in peril, will Shuri embrace her reluctant destiny and become the Black Panther once more? Prepare for a hero like you've never seen before!

Class Act, book cover

Class Act Jerry Kraft

Eighth grader Drew Ellis is no stranger to the saying, "You have to work twice as hard to be just as good." His grandmother has reminded him his entire life. But what if he works ten times as hard and still isn’t afforded the same opportunities that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted?

To make matters worse, Drew begins to feel as if his good friend Liam might be one of those privileged kids. He wants to pretend like everything is fine, but it's hard not to withdraw, and even their mutual friend Jordan doesn't know how to keep the group together.

As the pressures mount, will Drew find a way to bridge the divide so he and his friends can truly accept each other? And most important, will he finally be able to accept himself? 

 

What is Juneteenth?, book cover

What is Juneteenth? Kirsti Jewel

On June 19, 1865, a group of enslaved men, women, and children in Texas gathered around a Union solder and listened as he read the most remarkable words they would ever hear. They were no longer enslaved. They were free. The inhumane practice of forced labor with no pay was now illegal in all of the United States. This news was cause for celebration, so the group of people jumped in excitement, danced, and wept tears of joy. They did not know it at the time, but their joyous celebration of freedom would become a holiday—Juneteenth—that is observed each year by more and more Americans.

The Underground Abductor: An Abolitionist Tale, book cover

The Underground Abductor: An Abolitionist Tale Nathan Hale

Araminta Ross was born a slave in Maryland in the early 19th century. Slavery meant that her family could be ripped apart at any time, and that she could be put to work in dangerous places and for abusive people. But north of the Mason-Dixon line, slavery was illegal. If she could run away and make it north without being caught or killed, she’d be free. Facing enormous danger, Araminta made it, and once free, she changed her name to Harriet Tubman. Tubman spent the rest of her life helping slaves run away like she did, every time taking her life in her hands.

Black Heroes of the American West, book cover

Black Heroes of the American West James Otis Smith

True stories from the Wild West, but not like you’ve seen in the movies.

This graphic novel by James Otis Smith celebrates the extraordinary true tales of three black heroes who took control of their destinies and stood up for their communities in the Old West. Born into slavery in Tennessee, Mary Fields became famous as "Stagecoach Mary," a cigar-chomping, cardplaying coach driver who never missed a delivery. Bass Reeves, the first black Deputy US Marshal west of the Mississippi, was one of the wiliest lawmen in the territories, bringing thousands of outlaws to justice with his smarts. Bob Lemmons lived to be 99 years old and was so good with horses that the wild mustangs on the plains of Texas took him for one of their own.

 

For Teens

Mister Miracle, book cover

Mister Miracle Varian Johnson

Scott Free is a student at the Goodness Academy, on the planet Apokolips, ruled by Lord Darkseid. Sounds pretty cool, right? Wrong. Scott Free wants nothing more than to leave Apokolips for planet Earth; the only problem is that no one has ever left Apokolips of their own free will...or alive.

Scott Free has a plan, a foolproof plan, a plan that his found family depends on for their own freedom. But that plan never involved falling in love with the head of the Female Furies, Big Barda-the one person tasked with ensuring he never escapes.

The Life of Frederick Douglass, book cover

The Life of Frederick Douglass David Walker

A graphic novel biography of the escaped slave, abolitionist, public speaker, and most photographed man of the nineteenth century, based on his autobiographical writings and speeches, spotlighting the key events and people that shaped the life of this great American.

Recently returned to the cultural spotlight, Frederick Douglass's impact on American history is felt even in today's current events. Comic book writer and filmmaker David F. Walker joins with the art team of Damon Smyth and Marissa Louise to bring the long, exciting, and influential life of Douglass to life in comic book form. Taking you from Douglass's life as a young slave through his forbidden education to his escape and growing prominence as a speaker, abolitionist, and influential cultural figure during the Civil War and beyond, Frederick Douglass presents a complete illustrated portrait of the man who stood up and spoke out for freedom and equality. Along the way, special features provide additional background on the history of slavery in the United States, the development of photography (which would play a key role in the spread of Douglass's image and influence), and the Civil War. Told from Douglass's point of view and based on his own writings.

Nubia: Real One, book cover

Nubia: Real One L. L. McKinney

Can you be a hero...if society doesn’t see you as a person?

Nubia has always been a little bit...different. As a baby she showcased Amazonian-like strength by pushing over a tree to rescue her neighbor’s cat. But, despite having similar abilities, the world has no problem telling her that she’s no Wonder Woman. And even if she was, they wouldn’t want her. Every time she comes to the rescue, she’s reminded of how people see her; as a threat. Her Moms do their best to keep her safe, but Nubia can’t deny the fire within her, even if she’s a little awkward about it sometimes. Even if it means people assume the worst.

When Nubia’s best friend, Quisha, is threatened by a boy who thinks he owns the town, Nubia will risk it all—her safety, her home, and her crush on that cute kid in English class—to become the hero society tells her she isn’t.

Run: Book One, book cover

Run: Book One John Lewis

To John Lewis, the civil rights movement came to an end with the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. But that was after more than five years as one of the preeminent figures of the movement, leading sit–in protests and fighting segregation on interstate busways as an original Freedom Rider. It was after becoming chairman of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and being the youngest speaker at the March on Washington. It was after helping organize the Mississippi Freedom Summer and the ensuing delegate challenge at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. And after coleading the march from Selma to Montgomery on what became known as "Bloody Sunday." All too often, the depiction of history ends with a great victory. But John Lewis knew that victories are just the beginning. In Run: Book One, John Lewis and longtime collaborator Andrew Aydin reteam with Nate Powell—the award–winning illustrator of the March trilogy—and are joined by L. Fury—making an astonishing graphic novel debut—to tell this often overlooked chapter of civil rights history.

Girl on Fire, book cover

Girl on Fire Alicia Keys

From New York Times bestselling author and 15-time GRAMMY® Award-winning artist Alicia Keys comes a new authentic, honest, coming-of-age young adult graphic novel, illustrated by Brittney Williams, about finding the strength within when your whole world changes in an instant.

Lolo Wright always thought she was just a regular fourteen-year-old dealing with regular family drama: her brother, James, is struggling with his studies; her dad’s business constantly teeters on the edge of trouble; and her mother… she left long ago. But then Lolo’s world explodes when a cop pulls a gun on James in a dangerous case of mistaken identities. Staring down the barrel, with no one else to help, Lolo discovers powers she never knew she had. Using only her mind, she literally throws the cop out of the way.

Problem is that secrets like Lolo’s don’t stay a secret for long. Skin, a dangerous dealer with designs on taking over the neighborhood, hears of Lolo’s telekinetic abilities and decides that he needs her in his crew. Skin might not have Lolo’s powers, but he’s got nothing to lose and is willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. And what he wants is Lolo.

I Am Alfonso Jones, book cover

I Am Alfonso Jones Tony Medina

Alfonso Jones can’t wait to play the role of Hamlet in his school’s hip-hop rendition of the classic Shakespearean play. He also wants to let his best friend, Danetta, know how he really feels about her. But as he is buying his first suit, an off-duty police officer mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun, and he shoots Alfonso.

When Alfonso wakes up in the afterlife, he’s on a ghost train guided by well-known victims of police shootings, who teach him what he needs to know about this subterranean spiritual world. Meanwhile, Alfonso’s family and friends struggle with their grief and seek justice for Alfonso in the streets. As they confront their new realities, both Alfonso and those he loves realize the work that lies ahead in the fight for justice.

For Adults

Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower, book cover

Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower Damian Duffy

In this graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, the award-winning team behind Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, the author portrays a searing vision of America’s future. In the year 2024, the country is marred by unattended environmental and economic crises that lead to social chaos. Lauren Olamina, a preacher’s daughter living in Los Angeles, is protected from danger by the walls of her gated community. However, in a night of fire and death, what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny ... and the birth of a new faith.

A Revolution in Three Acts, book cover

A Revolution in Three Acts David Hajdu

Bert Williams—a black man forced to perform in blackface who challenged the stereotypes of minstrelsy. Eva Tanguay—an entertainer with the signature song "I Don't Care" who flouted the rules of propriety to redefine womanhood for the modern age. Julian Eltinge—a female impersonator who entranced and unnerved audiences by embodying the feminine ideal Tanguay rejected. At the turn of the twentieth century, they became three of the most provocative and popular performers in vaudeville, the form in which American mass entertainment first took shape.

A Revolution in Three Acts explores how these vaudeville stars defied the standards of their time to change how their audiences thought about what it meant to be American, to be Black, to be a woman or a man. The writer David Hajdu and the artist John Carey collaborate in this work of graphic nonfiction, crafting powerful portrayals of Williams, Tanguay, and Eltinge to show how they transformed American culture. Hand-drawn images give vivid visual form to the lives and work of the book's subjects and their world.

Incognegro, book cover

Incognegro Mat Johnson

In the early 20th Century, when lynchings were commonplace throughout the American South, a few courageous reporters from the North risked their lives to expose these atrocities. They were African-American men who, due to their light skin color, could "pass" among the white folks. They called this dangerous assignment going "incognegro."

Zane Pinchback, a reporter for the New York-based New Holland Herald, is sent to investigate the arrest of his own brother, charged with the brutal murder of a white woman in Mississippi. With a lynch mob already swarming, Zane must stay "incognegro" long enough to uncover the truth behind the murder in order to save his brother -- and himself. Suspenseful, unsettling and relevant, Incognegro is a tense graphic novel of shifting identities, forbidden passions, and secrets that run far deeper than skin color.

Your Black Friend and Other Strangers, book cover

Your Black Friend and Other Strangers Ben Passmore

Your Black Friend and Other Strangers is a collection of culturally charged comics by cartoonist Ben Passmore, including the Eisner Award nominated and Ignatz Award-winning "Your Black Friend," named one of NPR's 100 favorite comics of all time in 2017. Passmore masterfully tackles comics about race, gentrification, the prison system, online dating, gross punks, bad street art, kung fu movie references, beating up God, and lots of other grown-up stuff with refreshing doses of humor and lived relatability. The comics in this 112-page collection include works previously published by The Nib, VICE, and the As You Were anthology, along with brand new and unreleased material. These comics are essential, humorous, and accessible, told through Passmore's surreal lens in the vibrant full-color hues of New Orleans.

Blog Category
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Graphic Novels

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