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"On Juneteenth": Annette Gordon-Reed's joyful ode to Emancipation

Annette Gordon-Reed is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of History at Harvard University. She won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in History, the 2008 National Book Award and 14 other prizes for her book, "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family" (W.W. Norton, 2008). (photo (c) Tony Rinaldo)

(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, but now take place around the country. One year ago this week, the US Congress voted overwhelmingly to make the day a federal holiday.

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.

On Juneteenth book jacket.jpg
Published by Liveright/W.W. Norton & Company

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.

Here's a list of some of the public events happening this weekend in observance of Juneteenth:

The historic Hosanna School Museum hosts the Annual Upper Bay Juneteenth Festival in Darlington on Saturday from 12-6pm.

Hosanna School Museum was the first of three Freedmen’s Bureau schoolhouses erected in Harford County.   

The building was used as a school, community meeting place and church. In 1879, Harford County School Commissioners assumed operation of the school and Hosanna remained an active schoolhouse for African American children until 1946.

Juneteenth Community Walk on Saturday, starting at 10:30am at the Pennsylvania Avenue AME Zion Church.

On Sunday:  Freedom Day Festival from11am-6pm at German Park and a Juneteenth Festival at the Dovecote Café in Reservoir Hill.

Juneteenth Festival Sunday from 3-7pm at the Eubie Blake National Jazz and Cultural Center.

The annual AFRAM Festival in Druid Hill Park on Saturday and Sunday.

Host, Midday (M-F 12:00-1:00)
Malarie is Midday's Supervisory Producer.
Rob is Midday's senior producer.