Q&A: Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Annette Gordon-Reed Pens New Memoir ‘On Juneteenth’



Pulitzer Prize profitable writer and historian Annette Gordon-Reed has written a brand new guide “On Juneteenth,” a memoir concerning the historical past of Texas whereas weaving in tales from her childhood. Born in Livingston, whereas rising up in Conroe, Texas, Gordon-Reed reminisces about rising up within the segregated South and her experiences as the primary Black little one in her city to go to an all-white faculty. She additionally shares poignant recollections of celebrating Juneteenth as a toddler. 

Presently educating at Harvard College, Gordon-Reed is well-known because the writer of “Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, An American Controversy,” and “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Household,” with the latter incomes her the Pulitzer Prize. Her new guide now offers readers a deeper perception on the historical past of Juneteenth and explains why folks throughout the nation ought to have fun the day

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BET.com:  Why did you write this guide? What was your inspiration behind this challenge?

Annette Gordon-Reed: I wrote this guide as a result of I wished to offer folks a unique view of Texas and speak about a few of my experiences rising up there. There’s a lot about Texas that individuals have no idea. Additionally, my editor had been after me to put in writing a guide about Texas, so throughout the pandemic, I wrote this guide.

BET.com:  Why was it so vital to share your private experiences about rising up in Texas within the guide?

Annette Gordon-Reed: I made a decision that I wished to speak about these tales by way of the folks of Texas and the relationships all these teams have: Indigenous folks, African People, Europeans, Anglo People, and Latinos. I wished to speak about rising up in Conroe as the primary Black little one going to a white faculty. The state of Texas promoted white supremacy and slavery introduced a racial hierarchy. That hierarchy continued by way of Jim Crow, launching an assault on Jim Crow (Brown vs Board of Schooling) in my hometown. There was a connection between the previous and my previous.  

 BET.com:  Who do you imagine must learn this guide and why ought to folks exterior of Texas care about Juneteenth?

Annette Gordon-Reed: Everyone ought to learn this guide, notably younger folks in Texas and individuals who care about and have an interest within the historical past of the nation. The method of emancipation was a milestone, and the top of slavery was an vital step for Texas, human rights, and for this nation. Juneteenth, as a vacation, promotes the hopes of the way forward for the folks of that point. Juneteenth commemorates and celebrates these individuals who had been enslaved. Now, there are colleges and firms giving folks the break day. It means one thing. 

Juneteenth takes place in the summertime and is ideal for household holidays. Being somewhat child, I keep in mind celebrating Juneteenth with the youngsters in my neighborhood at my grandmother’s home, ingesting purple soda water, consuming barbeque, and throwing firecrackers. Solely Black folks celebrated after I was rising up. It was an opportunity to see relations for a day of getting collectively. As I received older, I remembered the significance of the day. My nice grandmother knew somebody who had been enslaved. We weren’t removed from it. I believe extra concerning the that means of that point as I’ve gotten older.


BET.com:  You grew up within the segregated south and had been the primary Black individual in your hometown to combine colleges. What was that have like and the way has that formed your concept of race/racism at the moment?

Annette Gordon-Reed: It was an intense time initially. My first-grade instructor was great to me. Some youngsters had been good, and a few youngsters weren’t good to me.  I puzzled why it was an enormous deal that I used to be going to highschool with white youngsters. I started to consider race early on and the that means of it. Rising up we had separate ready rooms on the physician’s workplace, the place the Black ready rooms weren’t as good because the white folks’s ready room. On the motion pictures, we needed to sit within the balcony separate from white folks. I understood it was about race and the historical past of race and slavery, which is why I turned a historian.

BET.com:  And in your guide, you discuss concerning the historical past of Texas as a republic and communicate on its declaration and structure the place slavery was legalized. How was the state of Texas important or totally different to different states within the south throughout that point interval and the way do you suppose Texas stands on racism and fairness at the moment?

Annette Gordon-Reed: Texas was controversial as a result of it was explicitly a slave state. Folks in Texas wished to hitch the US for cover towards Mexico. The U.S. was coping with slave states and free states. Folks within the north didn’t need Texas within the union as a result of it was a slave state. There was a political battle in the US about slavery and free labor within the nation. Even folks overseas weren’t happy concerning the open notion and assist of slavery. 

Right this moment the state is reacting to the rising voting energy of its folks and continued voter suppression has stopped that from taking place. Nonetheless, the longer term appears to be like good due to the younger individuals who desire a totally different world.  


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