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NIU librarian curates Juneteenth reading list

Northern Illinois University, large red NIU sign outside the Holmes Student Center in DeKalb, IL on Thursday, May 13, 2021.

DeKALB - A Northern Illinois University professor has compiled a Juneteenth reading list for others to learn more throughout June about the federal holiday.

Robert Ridinger, an NIU professor and subject specialist librarian at NIU’s Founders Memorial Library, has been a subject specialist for a variety of studies since January 1981.

In June 2021, Ridinger said he started identifying books for his Juneteenth reading list. That way, the university had something to give out when the newly established holiday rolled around the following year. He said several colleagues asked him to help craft a special educational program.

“I went out to see what existed,” Ridinger said. “They have to know what’s out there before they can find it, before they can buy it.”

Doing so allowed the university to “have something to promote the literature of Juneteenth,” Ridinger said.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, first learned of their freedom by Union soldiers more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and two months after the Confederacy had surrendered. Juneteenth also is known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day. Later that year, on Dec. 18, the 13th Amendment was officially adopted as part of the United States Constitution.

The day, recognized for generations by Black Americans, has entered more widely into the mainstream in past years. President Joe Biden signed legislation in June 2021 that designated Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Ridinger said the pool of books he identified was bigger than what he thought.

“But I was really expecting more historical treatment,” he said.

Those interested can access books on Ridinger’s reading list at their local public libraries around DeKalb County or at the digital PrairieCat Library Catalog to help locate some books that are featured on his list.

The full reading list can be found at newsroom.niu.edu/juneteenth-reading-list.