In commemoration of Juneteenth, one of the most significant American holidays, here are three new books that offer astute, vivid perspectives on Black life in the United States over the past two centuries. The first two are broad, sometimes revisionist histories of Black culture and race relations in America; the third is a biography of an indispensable figure in American history.

Like Michael Harriot’s Black AF History, Kellie Carter Jackson’s We Refuse: A Forceful History of Black Resistance (Seal Press, June 4) is a powerful response to the whitewashed version of American history that often dominates both textbooks and political discussions. In a starred review, our reviewer writes, “Jackson, a professor of Africana studies and author of Force and Freedom, fuses solid research with an urgent authorial voice, bringing a fresh perspective to the haunted history of American race relations. This taut and fiery discussion focuses on historical research (with occasional repetition) and transformative figures (often little known) along with hard-won insight from Jackson’s personal experiences.” Sure to rile right-wing talking heads, this “uncompromising yet accessible rejoinder to conventional wisdom about race and violence” is a must-read.

Crazy as Hell: The Best Little Guide to Black History (Norton, June 4) is similar in spirit to Jackson’s book but laced with a bit more levity and focus on cultural figures. Authors Hoke S. Glover III and V. Efua Prince “seek to challenge views that Black Americans are solely defined by the brutality of their history,” writes our reviewer. “Toward that end, the authors organize the text around the great cultural ‘luminaries’ who have not only ‘transcend[ed] the boundaries’ imposed on Black Americans, but also demonstrated their (very human) imperfections by showing themselves to be ‘crazy as hell.’” The authors’ approach is unique, concise, and accessible, synthesizing vast amounts of information in a way that can attract even the most history-averse readers. “As it entertains and enlightens,” our critic notes, “this book also makes readers keenly aware that the ‘craziness’ demonstrated by Black heroes is a direct response to the madness of a racist American society.”

Few historical figures epitomize the fight for Black freedom more than Harriet Tubman. In her tightly focused biography, Night Flyer: Harriet Tubman and the Faith Dreams of a Free People (Penguin Press, June 18), Tiya Miles, a Kirkus Prize finalist for All That She Carried, delivers a truly fresh portrait of the woman behind the legend. As our reviewer writes, the author “chronicles and contextualizes Tubman’s work to lead enslaved people to freedom in the North, spotlighting her subject’s spiritual conviction and naturalistic know-how. The author mines existing biographies and places familiar Tubman anecdotes alongside the spiritual narratives of lesser-known Black women contemporaries. Miles seeks to rescue Tubman from the solitary, superhuman portrayals, laced with mysticism and oddity, that have defined her legacy.” While plenty has been written about Tubman, Miles’ experience and facility with the subject matter bring out a version of Tubman that celebrates her very real—rather than merely mythic—accomplishments, while also providing an inspirational path for anyone aspiring to further the cause of civil justice.

Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction editor.