On Juneteenth

Annette Gordon-Reed. Liveright, $15.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-63149-883-1
Pulitzer-winner Gordon-Reed (The Hemingses of Monticello) interweaves history, politics, and memoir in these immersive and well-informed essays reflecting on the history of Juneteenth. She places the story of June 19, 1865, the day (two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation) when African Americans in Galveston, Tex., learned they were free, in the context of the bargain struck between settler Stephen F. Austin and the Mexican government in the 1820s to allow chattel slavery in what became east Texas, and notes that after winning independence from Mexico in 1836, Texans pushed for annexation into the U.S. in order to protect themselves from the rising tide of abolitionism. Gordon-Reed also describes the “oddity of being on display” as the first student to integrate schools in her hometown of Conroe, sketches the history of Indigenous peoples in the region, and discusses the story behind the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” which was based on a (likely false) legend that Mexican general Antonio López de Santa Anna lost the Battle of San Jacinto because he was “distracted” by a “beautiful woman of color” spying for the Texas revolutionaries. Despite the thorny racial history, Gordon-Reed expresses a deep fondness for her native state, writing that “love does not require taking an uncritical stance toward the object of one’s affections.” This brisk history lesson entertains and enlightens. (May)
Reviewed on : 02/12/2021
Release date: 05/04/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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