Friday, June 18, 2021

 Dear Great Book Guru, I have heard that there are many celebrations planned this year for the holiday known as Juneteenth, and I’d like to learn more about it. Do you have a book you might recommend? Seeker of Knowledge

Dear Seeker of Knowledge, ON JUNETEENTH by Annette Gordon-Reed is the book for you! In a series of short essays, Gordon-Reed - a Pulitzer Prize winning historian - relates the story of June 19, 1865 - the day Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery in Texas, the state where she was born and her family had lived for generations. This slender volume (140 pages) is a history of the holiday but also a history of Texas from the 1500’s until the present time. The first celebrations of Juneteenth date back to 1866. These involved church-based communities in Texas, and the celebrations soon spread throughout the South. It is now observed throughout the nation with readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, readings of African-American writers, street fairs, rodeos, historical reenactments, and family reunions. Gordon-Reed’s book enumerates all this but she also illuminates the role Texas has played in the struggle for racial equality.  There have been horrific missteps, but the author reveals a strong affection for her flawed home state.  A challenging but ultimately rewarding look into our nation’s history. Recommended!

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