"On Juneteenth": Annette Gordon-Reed's Ode To Emancipation Joy
(This conversation was originally broadcast on June 18, 2021)
Tom's guest on this archived edition of Midday is the author and historian Annette Gordon Reed. She is best-known for her study of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. Her book, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, won sixteen book prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
Her latest book is a beautiful peroration on the meaning of the holiday known as Juneteenth, which marks the anniversary of a significant historical event: on June 19th, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3 in Galveston, Texas, declaring that all slaves were free, two months after General Robert E Lee had surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S Grant in Appomattox, Virginia. Juneteenth celebrations of this belated emancipation originated among African American communities in Texas, and now take place around the country.
Gordon-Reed's book is at once an homage to her home state of Texas, and a wholly original and fascinating exploration of how history and legend and myth all shape what we learn when we’re young, how our understanding evolves as we grow older, and how social dynamics inform the evolution of societal understanding.
Professor Reed writes with erudition and grace, authority and humility, weaving a touching personal memoir into the stark reality of a harsh historical record.
Her book is called On Juneteenth.
Annette Gordon Reed joined Tom on Zoom from her home in New York. They spoke just a few days before President Biden signed a congressional bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Because this conversation was recorded earlier, we can’t take any calls or comments.