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On Juneteenth
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On Juneteenth

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 nation’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.


Bookseller Recommendation

If you enjoyed How the Word Is Passed, then you’ll love On Juneteenth.

On Juneteenth is an excellent history lesson wrapped in a memoir. Gordon-Reed has written a moving personal story of Texas, exploring what it means to be a Texan, specifically what it means for her, a Black woman descended from enslaved people. And - it’s complicated. She intertwines her own story with the story of Texas from its days as part of Mexico to today, and her celebrations of Juneteenth with its history. Her love of Texas, created through her childhood there in the embrace of her family and their traditions, sits in contrast to much of the state’s past, from its colonization by Spain through the years of enslavement of others by various groups, the Civil War, and 20th century civil rights battles to the legacies of all that history in present-day Texas. Her examination of the history and legacies through a very personal lens makes this a wonderful listen, perfect now as we approach Juneteenth and it’s possible designation as a national holiday.”

Raven Book Store image Nancy, Raven Book Store

Description

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, one 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, AfricanAmericans played an integral role in the Texas story. Significantly, they shared the land with Indigenous people who faced their own conflicts with EuropeanAmericans, creating a volatile racial tableau whose legacies still haunt us.

Reworking the traditional “Alamo” framework, she shows how the contentious history of the Lone Star State can provide us with a fresh and illuminating perspective on our country’s past and its possible futures. 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.


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About the author


Annette Gordon-Reed is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard University. The author of Pulitzer Prize-winning The Hemingses of Monticello, she lives in New York and Cambridge.

Photo credit: Tony Rinaldo


Reviews

“In a series of short, moving essays, [Gordon-Reed] explores 'the long road' to June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger announced the end of legalized slavery in Texas, the state where Gordon-Reed was born and raised.... No matter what she’s looking at, Gordon-Reed pries open this space between the abstract and particular.... One of the things that makes this slender book stand out is Gordon-Reed’s ability to combine clarity with subtlety, elegantly carving a path between competing positions, instead of doing as too many of us do in this age of hepped-up social-media provocations by simply reacting to them. In On Juneteenth she leads by example, revisiting her own experiences, questioning her own assumptions — and showing that historical understanding is a process, not an end point.”

Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

“As Juneteenth morphs from a primarily Texan celebration of African American freedom to a proposed national holiday, Gordon-Reed urges Texans and all Americans to reflect critically on this tangled history. A remarkable meditation on the history and folk mythology of Texas from an African American perspective.”

Lesley Williams, Booklist, starred review

“Pulitzer-winner Gordon-Reed (The Hemingses of Monticello) interweaves history, politics, and memoir in these immersive and well-informed essays reflecting on the history of Juneteenth.... Despite the thorny racial history, Gordon-Reed expresses a deep fondness for her native state, writing that 'love does not require taking an uncritical stance toward the object of one’s affections.' This brisk history lesson entertains and enlightens.”

Publishers Weekly

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