Bestselling Authors, UT Professors to Celebrate African American Culture at Annual Book Festival

Juneteenth marks the day when the last of the American slaves learned they were free. It commemorates June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, when a Union general landed in Galveston and announced that all slaves were free.

In honor of this significant point in U.S. history, also known as “Freedom Day,” we’re spotlighting the upcoming African American Book Festival, an annual event that brings bestselling authors, scholars and bookworms together for thoughtful discussions about race and society. The event, free and open to the public, will be held on Thursday, June 22, and Saturday, June 24, at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.

Events listed below are just a few highlights. A full schedule can be found here.

Thursday, June 22

April Sinclair will present Coffee Will Make You Black, a humorous coming-of-age tale set in the Civil Rights Era. The novel was selected as the 1994 Young Adult Book of the Year by the American Library Association..—11 a.m.

Bestselling young adult author Angie Thomas will present her No. 1 New York Times best-selling novel The Hate U Give. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, the story follows a teen girl who is the only witness to her friend’s fatal shooting by a police officer, leading her to confront the reality of racial injustice in America and get involved in activism.—6:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 24

Educator and editor-at-large for Salon, D. Watkins will discuss his books including The Cook Up: A Crack Memoir. This inspiring true story was a New York Times bestseller and an O Magazine Best Summer Book. Watkins is also the author of The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America.—12 p.m.

Peniel E. Joseph, UT Austin history professor and founding director of the LBJ School’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, will deliver the keynote address. Joseph’s publications include Stokely: A Life, and Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama. His career focus has been on “Black Power Studies,” which encompasses interdisciplinary fields such as Africana studies and political science. Joseph is a frequent commentator on CSPAN, NPR and PBS’s NewsHour.—1:30 p.m.

UT Austin English Professor Jennifer Wilks will lead the discourse around Raoul Peck’s critically acclaimed documentary I Am Not Your Negro, based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript. The film covers race and race relations in America.—3 p.m.

Want to know more about Juneteenth happenings in Austin? Visit the Greater East Austin Youth Association website to learn more about the Annual Juneteenth Historical Parade and Festival, happening June 17, 10 a.m. at the intersection of MLK and Comal streets. You can also learn more about the recent Miss Juneteenth Scholarship Pageant, supported, in part, by the DDCE’s Community Engagement Center.

Save the Date: Austin African American Book Festival Set for June 27

33442_2720772Austin’s African American Book Festival will explore love, perseverance and intellectual growth under the heading “Black Lives Matter,” on June 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Carver Museum and Library. The event is free and open to the public.

Featured speakers include author M.K. Asante, novelist Beverly Jenkins, and Dr. Kevin Cokley, professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and Educational Psychology.


asanteAsante, an award-winning author, poet and filmmaker, will discuss his memoir Buck, and how what he learned on urban streets helped him become not only an artistic tour de force, but also a tenured college professor.


jenkinsWith more than 30 titles to her credit, Jenkins is one of the most widely read writers of historical romances. Much of her work is set in the 19th century and features African American protagonists. She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, People, and the Dallas Morning News.


cokelyIn an article for the Harvard Educational Review, Cokley challenges the notion that Black students are anti-intellectual. Cokely, who is also a counseling psychologist, explores how issues of identity impact the achievement of African-American students.

Once again the festival will host book discussions and a Texas author showcase.


Now in its ninth year, the African American Book Festival is a multigenerational event intended to promote literary exploration and library usage in the community.

For more information visit or African American Book Festival on Facebook.