Written by Annette Gordon-Reed

Publisher: Liveright
Pages: 152
Genre: History, Nonfiction, Memoir, Race, Essays
Published: 2021-05-04
Original Language: English

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. Especially now that the U.S. recognizes Juneteenth (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.

Read from 2021-06-21 to 2021-06-21
Read in English
Rating: 4/5
Review: On Juneteenth is a collection of essays, whereof one is entitled “On Juneteenth”. This made me go into the book with the wrong expectations: I had expected a book about Juneteenth in particular. This book is more general, and about the history of African-Americans in Texas.

I’m still too ignorant of the history of Texas to fully appreciate much of the historical commentary in this book. It challenges and comments upon accepted/conventional presentations of history in a space where I’m not familiar with the history that’s being commented on, so I’m sure parts of it were lost on me. That said, the history presented in the book is still interesting, and I definitely feel like I learnt a lot from reading it.

The personal experiences of the author really hit home with me. The essay on school segregation was fascinating, and the way personal experiences were tied into the wider issue really made it feel real and nuanced in a way I haven’t seen before.