On Juneteenth

May 4, 2021
On Juneteenth

"It is staggering that there is no date commemoratingthe end of slavery in the United States." —AnnetteGordon-ReedThe essential, sweeping story of Juneteenth's integralimportance to American history, as told by a Pulitzer Prize–winninghistorian and Texas native.Weaving together American history, dramatic family chronicle,and searing episodes of memoir, Annette Gordon-Reed's On Juneteenthprovides a historian's view of the country's long road toJuneteenth, recounting both its origins in Texas and the enormoushardships that African-Americans have endured in the century since,from Reconstruction through Jim Crow and beyond. All too aware ofthe stories of cowboys, ranchers, and oilmen that have longdominated the lore of the Lone Star State, Gordon-Reed—herself aTexas native and the descendant of enslaved people brought to Texasas early as the 1820s—forges a new and profoundly truthfulnarrative of her home state, with implications for us all.Combining personal anecdotes with poignant facts gleaned fromthe annals of American history, Gordon-Reed shows how, from theearliest presence of Black people in Texas to the day in Galvestonon June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger announced theend of legalized slavery in the state, African-Americans played anintegral role in the Texas story.Reworking the traditional "Alamo" framework, she powerfullydemonstrates, among other things, that the slave- and race-basedeconomy not only defined the fractious era of Texas independencebut precipitated the Mexican-American War and, indeed, the CivilWar itself.In its concision, eloquence, and clear presentation of history, OnJuneteenth vitally revises conventional renderings of Texas andnational history. As our nation verges on recognizing June 19 as anational holiday, On Juneteenth is both an essential account and astark reminder that the fight for equality is exigent andongoing.