Town Square

Pulitzer Prize-Winner Annette Gordon-Reed On The History Of Juneteenth

Texas native and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, Annette Gordon-Reed, unpacks the history of Juneteenth – the anniversary of the end of slavery in the US, when word finally reached slaves in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865.

A new Juneteenth mural in Galveston is located at the site of the issuance of General Order No. 3, which demanded “absolute equality” between enslaved Texans and former slave owners after the Emancipation Proclamation.

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Juneteenth is the day on which we celebrate the emancipation of the enslaved in the United States. It commemorates June 19, 1865 – the date that General Gordon Granger proclaimed freedom for slaves in Texas.

In 1872, Black leaders raised $1,000 to purchase land in Houston, now known as Emancipation Park, to celebrate Juneteenth.

In 1938, Texas governor James Allred proclaimed the date be set aside for the observance of Emancipation Day.

In the late 1970s, the Texas Legislature declared Juneteenth a “holiday of significance," becoming the first to establish it as a state holiday.

Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, Harvard professor and author of “On Juneteenth”

On this year's Juneteenth, a new 5,000-square-foot mural will be dedicated in Galveston. Entitled "Absolute Equality," the mural marks the spot where General Order No. 3 was issued by Maj. Gen. Granger.

And, Juneteenth National Independence Day is now a federal holiday, signed into law yesterday by President Biden. Activist Opal Lee, known as the Grandmother of Juneteenth, played an instrumental role in the holiday’s journey to law, spending decades advocating for the date to be recognized nationally.

To help us better understand the history of this holiday and the journey of African Americans in the state of Texas, we welcome to the program historian, author and native Texan Annette Gordon-Reed, the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard.

Professor Gordon-Reed has won 16 book prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2009 and the National Book Award for Non-Fiction in 2008 for "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family."

Her current book is "On Juneteenth."

President Joe Biden signs the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act in the East Room of the White House on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

Here's How To Celebrate Juneteenth In The Houston Area

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Catherine Lu

Catherine Lu

Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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