Juneteenth: History, Performance, & Food-Three To Read

In honor of Juneteenth approaching, we are taking a look at three nonfiction books that educate and celebrate Black history, both past and present.

Black Voices Book Culture Non-Fiction Recommendations Three To Read
Three To Read: Juneteenth

Welcome back to another edition of Bookstr’s Three to Read! On June 19th, we celebrate Juneteenth. To recap, Juneteenth is a federal holiday that remembers the events in Galveston Bay, Texas. June 19th, 1865, two thousand Union troops arrived in Texas with news that over 250,000 enslaved Black people were free. Since then, every June 19th, we commemorate the emancipation of Black Americans.

For this week’s picks, we’ve selected books that cover Black history, the art of performance, and food. Make sure you add these to your TBR to educate yourself and support Black writers!

Hot Pick

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019

Edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

Four Hundred Souls


This collection of essays and poems gives readers a scope of four hundred years in Black America. Ninety different writers, scholars, activists, and other respected voices in the community each write an essay covering five years in Black history, beginning with the enslavement of the Ndongo people in 1619, and ending with the Black Lives Matter movement in 2019. The collection shines a light on lesser-known historical occurrences in Black history and focuses on topics such as resistance, reconstruction, and queer sexuality, among many others.


Editor and writer Ibram X. Kendi is best known for his work How to Be an Antiracist and his upcoming release, How to Raise an Antiracist. He is also the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. Historian and editor Keisha N. Blain is an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh and served as President of the African American Intellectual History Society from 2017 to 2021. They successfully present different facets of Black history chronologically through unique storytelling by allowing African American voices a chance to speak the unspoken.

Coffee Shop Read

A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance

By Hanif Abdurraqib

A Little Devil in America


Josephine Baker told the crowd at the March on Washington in 1963, “I was a devil in other countries, and I was a little devil in America, too.” In his collection of essays, Abdurraqib reflects on an array of Black performances, whether it be fistfights, dances, or music, and how it has impacted American culture as we know it. He also discusses how performance has affected his life and the relationship between Black and white cultures.


Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet and essayist, with his latest collection being A Fortune For Your Disaster in 2019. He was inspired by Baker’s speech and passionately reflected on and examined the different forms of Black performances. Abdurraqib takes from his personal history and performances to discuss his own grief and love.

Dark Horse

Watermelon & Red Birds

By Nicole A. Taylor

Watermelon and Red Birds


This book goes beyond simple recipes in a cookbook. It is infused with flavors and essays on the history behind Juneteenth and the dishes themselves. Taylor takes traditional African-American recipes and gives them a fresh spin with 21st-century flavors. Some of the dishes in the book are Peach Jam and Molasses Glazed Chicken Thighs, Roasted Nectarine Sundae, and Afro Egg Cream, among others. The cookbook not only promotes Black joy but also discusses the past, present, and future of Black America.


Nicole A. Taylor hosts Hot Grease, a food culture podcast, and has recipes featured in America I Am: Pass it Down Cookbook and The Way We Ate: 100 Chefs Celebrate a Century at the American Table cookbook. After celebrating Juneteenth for over a decade, she was encouraged to write a cookbook that brought together history and her love for food. Taylor also provides a list of BIPOC-owned products and companies that readers can support while making these dishes.

Let’s continue to listen to Black voices and support Black-owned businesses well beyond Juneteenth! For last week’s Three to Read, click here!