Books

Franklin’s Dorena Williamson pens ‘The Story of Juneteenth’

Dorena Williamson speaks about her book “The Story of Juneteenth” in her home in Franklin, Tenn., Monday, June 13, 2022.

Dorena Williamson of Franklin has undertaken several jobs in her life.

Top of her list of accomplishments: She’s a mother of four adult children between the ages of 18 and 28. She’s also the first lady of a Nashville church and a part-time stylist. She was previously a longtime social worker.

Her newest profession? It found her.

“I started feeling this sense of maybe I can help,” Williamson said. “Not in a prideful capacity… I just have a heart to continue growing and learning and helping other people do the same.”

Because of personal and career experiences, she knew the questions children asked and what parents were tasked with answering. And as a co-planter and leader of multiracial Strong Tower Bible Church, she knew what white parents struggled to discuss, especially when it comes to race in America.

So, she started writing children’s books.

Her sixth and most recent effort, “The Story of Juneteenth,” published right at a time when the holiday has entered the consciousness of more non-Black people than ever before.

Dorena Williamson speaks about her book “The Story of Juneteenth” in her home in Franklin, Tenn., Monday, June 13, 2022.

In just 250 words over 24 pages, the “board book” made specifically for small children with thick, cardboard pages, provides context and history of the holiday to children ages two through five.

Williamson: ‘How do you explain to babies and little children that people were enslaved?’

Last summer, following the declaration of Juneteenth as a federal holiday by President Joe Biden, Williamson was invited to write the book.

She had just experienced Franklin’s first city-sponsored Juneteenth event, as well as the high of a hallmark United States Colored Troops monument finally being installed at the city’s Public Square, thanks to the work of her husband, pastor Chris Williamson and other local leaders of faith .

Patrons and organizers chat together after a musical act during the Juneteenth Celebration at Public Square in Franklin, Tenn., on Saturday, June 19, 2021.

Although she had two other books in the works, two of her children’s weddings, her youngest child’s graduation and so much more in the year to come, she couldn’t turn down the opportunity to write on the subject.

“How do you explain to babies and little children that people were enslaved? How do you not shy away from the fact that it was absolutely horrible?” she asked rhetorically. “It was a challenge. I was willing to accept because I felt like babies, toddlers, pre-readers deserve to begin understanding what this is all about.”

Leave a Comment