Annette Gordon-Reed’s ‘On Juneteenth’ Tells A Story Of A Holiday, And Of Her Texas Family

The sounds of Texas.

By Joy Diaz & Shelly BrisbinMay 26, 2021 11:48 am, ,

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Harvard professor, Annette Gordon-Reed, has deep ties to Texas, going back to the 1820s on her mother’s side; the 1860s on her father’s side.

Gordon-Reed won the Pulitzer for her book, “The Hemmingses of Monticello.” She tells Texas Standard it inspired her to write her new book, “On Juneteenth.”

“That was one of the reasons that I started thinking about my own family,” Gordon-Reed said. “Why am I writing so much about this other family, when I have a family story as well?”

Among the things she found while researching her family was her great-great grandfather’s name on an 1867 voter registration list.

To Gordon-Reed, Juneteenth was a holiday mainly celebrated by Black people.

“It was a time to play with friends and be with family,” she said. “It was a time to think about the people that had been freed, even though my father used to say, ‘The slaves haven’t really been freed.'”

Gordon-Reed says she liked to think about how enslaved Texans must have felt on the first Juneteenth.

“Gordon Granger comes to Galveston on June 19, 1865, and he makes this proclamation – General Order No. 3 – that slavery was over in Texas,” Gordon-Reed said.

She says that formerly enslaved people were sometimes whipped for celebrating Juneteenth.

“But nevertheless, they continued to celebrate what was called Emancipation Day,” she said. “And now, it’s become a big deal not just in Texas, but all over the country.”

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