They Built Me for Freedom: The Story of Juneteenth and Houston's Emancipation Park (Hardcover)

They Built Me for Freedom: The Story of Juneteenth and Houston's Emancipation Park By Tonya Duncan Ellis, Jenin Mohammed (Illustrator) Cover Image
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A moving picture book about the history of Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas—and the origins of Juneteenth.

When people visit me, they are freeto run, play, gather, and rejoice.

They built me to remember.

On June 19, 1865, the 250,000 enslaved people of Texas learned they were free, ending slavery in the United States. This day was soon to be memorialized with the dedication of a park in Houston. The park was called Emancipation Park, and the day it honored would come to be known as Juneteenth.  

In the voice and memory of the park itself—its fields and pools, its protests and cookouts, and, most of all, its people—the 150-year story of Emancipation Park is brought to life. Through lyrical text and vibrant artwork, Tonya Duncan Ellis and Jenin Mohammed have crafted an ode to the struggle, triumph, courage, and joy of Black America—and the promise of a people to remember.

About the Author

Tonya Duncan Ellis is a former journalist and the author of the Sophie Washington series. She lives in Houston, Texas. You can visit her at  

Jenin Mohammed, winner of the 2020 Summer Spectacular Illustration Grand Prize, is the illustrator of the picture books Naming Ceremony, Song in the City, Super Mom, and All the Places We Call Home. She also draws the slice-of-life comic Knot Write Now. She lives in Florida. You can find her online at

Praise For…

"In this moving tribute to Houston’s Emancipation Park, rousing prose lingers on the park’s creation as well as its seasonal transformation during years of use, neglect, and rejuvenation. Mohammed’s layered application of color and printmaking textures reflect the past and present." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Ellis compresses a lot of history into a flowing narrative, perfectly borne out in Mohammed’s paintings. A moving portrayal of community and appreciation for the past, this book is a fine addition to all collections." — School Library Journal (starred review)

"Ellis' picture book celebrat[es] the history behind Emancipation Park. Mohammed's illustrations seem infused with sunlight, white space haloing the clear colors of greenery, children of many hues, and blue skies puffed with clouds. A happy book that shows young readers how public spaces can be created and saved to serve their communities." — Booklist

Product Details
ISBN: 9780063286054
ISBN-10: 006328605X
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: May 14th, 2024
Pages: 32
Language: English