Juneteenth brings hope for equality, Harvard Univ. professor writes in new book

Annette Gordon-Reed is a Harvard University Professor and author of the new book “On Juneteenth.” The native Texan and child of the civil rights movement said new national holiday “is a commemoration of the hopes that those people had at the time.”

Annette Gordon-Reed is an American historian and a professor at Harvard University. (Courtesy Annette Gordon-Reed)

Before its official holiday signing Thursday, Juneteenth was a regional celebration.

On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger announced the end of legalized slavery in the state.

He promised equality for the slaves, a promise that has been left unkept, Gordon-Reed said. African Americans are still trying to make a place for themselves and affirm their right to be here.

“So I want people to link that hope for that [equality] to what is going on now and how we are still fighting for that,” she said.

In her book “On Juneteenth,” Gordon-Reed chronicles American history, as well as her family’s history, and discusses the importance of Juneteenth in Texas and the U.S.

Now living in Manhattan and Cambridge, she said she wrote the book because “African American people have been on a journey from the Old World in Africa to the New World. Then, a spiritual, an intellectual and a social journey through slavery and out of slavery.”

Gordon-Reed, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her book, “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” grew up in Conroe, Texas, where she integrated her elementary school in the mid-1960s, nearly 10 years after the Brown vs. the Board of Education Supreme Court case.

She’s a 1981 graduate of Dartmouth College and a 1984 graduate of Harvard Law School.

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