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.
"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, Library Journal
"Gordon-Reed's scholarship is about challenging established notions. And just as she did with the prevailing narrative around Jefferson -- as a founding father who could never have fathered children with a Black woman -- so she does with the state that gave the nation Juneteenth.... Gordon-Reed's book is a historian's interrogation of her home state. But like Juneteenth, it speaks to the rest of the nation."--Rosalind Bentley, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Gordon-Reed offers a book that is both profound and personal in its exploration of the ways history shapes our lives and becomes distorted and reinvigorated over time.--TIME, The Best Books of 2021 So Far
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.