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.
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“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.”
Booklist (starred review)
“[An] evocative memoir, blending gorgeous details from her small-town Texas girlhood with the unofficial celebration of slavery’s demise and the broader canvas of race in America.”
— O, The Oprah Magazine
“An important part of the discussion about who and what we are as twenty-first-century Americans.”
— Washington Independent Review of Books
“Tempers that lifelong sense of Texas exceptionalism as she details with clear-eyed detachment yet enduring affection the Lone Star State’s outsized impact on the nation.”
— Texas Monthly
“Makes the case that the history of Black Texas is central to the history of the United States.”
— Library Journal (starred review)
“A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Gordon–Reed’s family is strongly tied to Texas, and her fondness for the state—despite its racial history and continuing struggles today—is perfectly captured in Chilton’s spirited narration.”
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About Annette Gordon-Reed
Annette Gordon-Reed is the author of several books of nonfiction, including The Hemingses of Monticello, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. She is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard University.
About Karen Chilton
Karen Chilton is a New York–based actor and writer and an accomplished voice-over artist and narrator. She has narrated dozens of audiobooks, won three AudioFile Earphones Awards, and in 2020 won the prestigious Audie Award for Best Nonfiction Narration. Her voice can be heard on numerous national network television, radio, and Internet advertising campaigns.