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. 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 usReworking 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 Juneteenthvitally 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
What we think we know about the past isn’t always the full story, as On Juneteenth makes stunningly clear. Historian Annette Gordon-Reed shows us an important side of her state’s history, chronicling the events that led to the enslaved finally being freed in Texas on June 19, 1865—more than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. But she shows that this story isn’t only about that moment—a persistent state of racial inequality followed. Weaving in her own memories of growing up in the Jim Crow era, Gordon-Reed recounts painful realities that left us feeling enlightened, with help from actor Karen Chilton’s deeply compelling narration. A brilliant, baffling, and absolutely necessary listen, On Juneteenth will change the way you think about the Lone Star State.