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On Juneteenth
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On Juneteenth
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The essential, sweeping story of Juneteenth's integral importance to American history, as told by a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and Texas native. Weaving together...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The essential, sweeping story of Juneteenth's integral importance to American history, as told by a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and Texas native. Weaving together...
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  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

    The essential, sweeping story of Juneteenth's integral importance to American history, as told by a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and Texas native.

    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.

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.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    March 15, 2021
    The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation. Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where "the image of Texas has a gender and a race: "Texas is a White man." The author astutely explores "what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man." With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history--as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that "has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries." All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight. A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    April 15, 2021
    Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon-Reed grew up both proudly African American and Texan, and was well aware of the contradictions since the symbolic Texan cowboy is safely white and apart from slavery. Yet this conception of the rugged independent Texan unsullied by Confederate racism is a myth: the primary motivation for Texas' rebellion against Mexico was not to preserve "freedom" but to maintain slavery. Gordon-Reed points out that Texas' original constitution, though modeled on that of the U.S., notably omitted "All men are created equal," and specifically forbade emancipation while barring free Blacks from entering the state. The emancipation announcement on June 19, 1865, which asserted Black equality as well as freedom, was met with white outrage and violence. While Texas has long been a multiracial blend of European, Mexican, African American, and Native cultures, "the interests of the men most credited with envisioning Texas and bringing it into being were most often antithetical to the interests of people of color who occupied the same space and time with them." 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.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from May 1, 2021

    With this book of five essays, Gordon-Reed (known for her landmark research on Sally Hemings) examines her own past and family, and interrogates what it means to her to be a Black Texan. Starting with her story of being the first Black child to integrate her local school in Conroe, TX, Gordon-Reed reveals the history of lynching and terror inflicted on her family and their neighbors, which haunts them still. She reminds us that Estebanico, a Black Muslim man from Morocco, arrived in present-day Texas a century before the landmark year 1619 that we often recognize as the start of slavery in the U.S. She also examines the role of slavery in luring whites to eventually establish the state of Texas. Gordon-Reed recalls the cultural artifacts that inflected her own youth (the Alamo, Billy Jack, Six Flags over Texas, and the Yellow Rose of Texas, for example) and uncovers their hidden histories of race. Her stories about her family's Juneteenth celebrations show that the holiday is uniquely Texan, even as it has now spread across the nation. VERDICT This beautifully written memoir makes the case that the history of Black Texas is central to the history of the United States. Gordon-Reed's writing will move all readers of U.S. history.--Kate Stewart, Tucson

    Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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