UPK Juneteenth Reading List

by Rylie Oswald Al-Awhad

The University Press of Kansas celebrates Juneteenth with a list of titles featuring African Americans’ fight for freedom and equal rights. Juneteenth, or June 19th, marks the day troops marched into Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to ensure enslaved people would be free. Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday on June 17th, 2021.

After the Glory by Donald R. Shaffer

The heroics of Black Union soldiers in the Civil War have been justly celebrated, but their postwar lives largely neglected. Donald Shaffer’s illuminating study shines a bright light on this previously obscure part of African American history, revealing for the first time Black veterans’ valiant but often frustrating efforts to secure true autonomy and equality as civilians.

After the Glory shows how Black veterans’ experiences as soldiers provided them for the first time with a sense of manliness that shaped not only their own lives but also their contributions to the African American community. Shaffer makes clear, however, that their postwar pursuit of citizenship and a dignified manhood was never very easy for Black veterans, their triumphs frequently neither complete nor lasting.

“A valuable and long-awaited work, After the Glory provides a powerful social history of race and gender. It is a saga of triumph and tragedy, of limited and ambiguous victories, of black men struggling to find true freedom in postwar America.”—John David Smith, editor of Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era

Like Men of War by Noah Andre Trudeau

Originally published in 1998, Like Men of War was a groundbreaking early study of Black troops in the Civil War that is still considered a major contribution to the literature on the United States Colored Troops (USCT). In this chronological operational history, Trudeau covers every major engagement—and a few minor ones—that the USCT participated in. By quoting generously from primary documents, including Black soldiers’ letters, Trudeau tells the combat history of African American troops in the Civil War largely through the voices of the soldiers themselves. Like Men of War, revised and expanded in this 2023 edition, showcases the vital role African Americans played in the fight for their own freedom. In focusing on the men who had the most to lose and gain from the war, the book provides a deeper understanding of the Civil War.

“Two distinguishing features of this book make it the most valuable compendium of the important role of Black soldiers in the Civil War. Every combat operation in which these units participated, including major battles as well as minor skirmishes, is described. And much of the evidence consists of enlisted men’s letters, diaries, reports, and memoirs. Readers will find here the most complete account of these events.”—James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

The Journey to Separate but Equal by Jack M. Beermann

In The Journey to Separate but Equal: Madame Decuir’s Quest for Racial Justice in the Reconstruction Era, Jack Beermann tells the story of how, in Hall v. Decuir, the post–Civil War US Supreme Court took its first step toward perpetuating the subjugation of the non-White population of the United States by actively preventing a Southern state from prohibiting segregation on a riverboat in the coasting trade on the Mississippi River. The Journey to Separate but Equal offers the first complete exploration of Hall v. Decuir, with an in-depth look at the case’s record; the lives of the parties, lawyers, and judges; and the case’s social context in 1870s Louisiana. The book centers around the remarkable story of Madame Josephine Decuir and the lawsuit she pursued because she had been illegally barred from the cabin reserved for White women on the Governor Allen riverboat.

The Journey to Separate but Equal provides perspective to the aftermath of the Civil War and African Americans’ newfound freedom. The book shows that even though African Americans gained freedom, the fight for equality still lay ahead.

“Beermann puts his expertise to good use while also enriching the story with historical sources and context. He draws on historians’ work to discuss Reconstruction and the place of free people of color in Louisiana.”—Journal of Southern History

Frederick Douglass by Peter C. Myers

For Frederick Douglass, the iconic nineteenth-century slave and abolitionist, the foundations for his arguments in support of racial equality rested on natural rights and natural law—and the bold proclamation of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. But because many Americans never observed this principle—and in Douglass’s day even renounced it—he made it his life’s work to move the nation toward this vision of a more noble liberalism. Peter Myers now considers that effort and the natural rights arguments by which Douglass confronted race in America.

Myers finds in Douglass’s political thought the foundations of a revitalized argument for the mainstream civil rights, integrationist tradition of African American political thought. His analysis offers a new way of looking at an important thinker, as well as a compelling case for hoping that race relations in America will improve over time.

“A beautiful, thoughtful, deeply felt volume that not only gives us the greatness of Douglass as he was in his time, but his continuing relevance in ours.”—Michael P. Zuckert, author of Launching Liberalism: On Lockean Political Philosophy

Dred Scott and the Politics of Slavery by Earl M. Maltz

The slave Dred Scott claimed that his residence in a free state transformed him into a free man. His lawsuit took many twists and turns before making its way to the Supreme Court in 1856. But when the Court ruled against him, the ruling sent shock waves through the nation and helped lead to civil war.

Writing for the 7-to-2 majority, Chief Justice Roger Taney asserted that Blacks were not and never could be citizens. Taney also ruled that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was unconstitutional, upsetting the balance of slave and free states. Earl Maltz now offers a new look at this landmark case, presenting Dred Scott as a turning point in an already contentious national debate.

“A first-rate introduction to the central constitutional issues the justices grappled with when deciding Dred Scott. . . . The best place for the general reader to turn who wants a good short introduction to the most notorious Supreme Court decision in American history.”—Civil War History

The Sable Arm by Dudley Taylor Cornish

A bona fide classic, The Sable Arm was the first work to fully chronicle the remarkable story of the nearly 180,000 Black troops who served in the Union army. This work paved the way for the exploration of the Black military experience in other wars. This edition, with a new foreword by Herman Hattaway and bibliographical essay by the author, makes available once again a pioneering work that will be especially useful for scholars and students of Civil War, Black, and military history.

“This classic book will provide a whole new generation of Civil War enthusiasts with a better understanding of this integral part of the war’s history.”—Civil War Book Exchange & Collector’s Newspaper