Weaving together American history, dramatic family chronicle, and searing episodes of memoir, Annette Gordon-Reed's On Juneteenth provides a historian's view of the country's long road to Juneteenth, recounting both its origins in Texas and the enormous hardships that African-Americans have endured in the century since, from Reconstruction through Jim Crow and beyond. All too aware of the stories of cowboys, ranchers, and oilmen that have long dominated the lore of the Lone Star State, Gordon-Reed--herself a Texas native and the descendant of enslaved people brought to Texas as early as the 1820s--forges a new and profoundly truthful narrative of her home state, with implications for us all.
Combining personal anecdotes with poignant facts gleaned from the annals of American history, Gordon-Reed shows how, from the earliest presence of Black people in Texas to the day in Galveston on June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of legalized slavery in the state, African-Americans played an integral role in the Texas story.
Reworking the traditional "Alamo" framework, she powerfully demonstrates, among other things, that the slave- and race-based economy not only defined the fractious era of Texas independence but precipitated the Mexican-American War and, indeed, the Civil War itself.In its concision, eloquence, and clear presentation of history, On Juneteenth vitally revises conventional renderings of Texas and national history. As our nation verges on recognizing June 19 as a national holiday, On Juneteenth is both an essential account and a stark reminder that the fight for equality is exigent and ongoing.
- ISBN-13: 9781631498831
- ISBN-10: 1631498835
- Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
- Publish Date: May 2021
- Dimensions: 7.6 x 4.7 x 0.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.5 pounds
- Page Count: 152
Annette Gordon-Reed opens On Juneteenth by reflecting on her conflicted emotions about Juneteenth becoming a national celebration. It is, she notes, a distinctly Texan holiday, since it commemorates the day in June 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston to announce the end of legalized slavery in the United States—two months after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. It’s also a deeply personal holiday, one that Black Texans have celebrated with family and friends ever since Granger read out his proclamation. And yet, Gordon-Reed acknowledges, it’s also a profoundly American holiday, just as Texas is perhaps the most profoundly American state.
This ambivalence inspires Gordon-Reed to explore the significance of this holiday within the broader context of Texan history. On Juneteenth is a collection of historical essays, ranging from the Spanish conquest to the present, that investigates what it means to be Texan. Against the background of the archetypal white cowboy and the ten-gallon hat oilman, Gordon-Reed demonstrates how the history of Texas is also the history of African Americans, Native Americans and Mexican Americans. Indeed, slavery was integral to the formation of the Republic of Texas—as well as the state of Texas. Understanding this truth, Gordon-Reed argues, is key to understanding the role racism continues to play in Texas and, by extension, the nation.
As the Carl W. Loeb Professor of history at Harvard, Gordon-Reed is no stranger to illuminating the uncomfortable truths of our past. She won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, a groundbreaking multigenerational history of the descendants of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, an enslaved African American woman.
On Juneteenth is written on a smaller and more personal scale than her previous work, but it is no less powerful. Gordon-Reed’s essays seamlessly merge history and memoir into a complex portrait of her beloved, turbulent Texas, revealing new truths about a state that, more than any other, embodies all the virtues and faults of America.