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A historian explains why Juneteenth should be a national celebration

Annette Gordon-Reed is an historian and University Professor at Harvard, and remembers her great-grandmother sharing the story of how her mother was born into slavery and freed as a child. Gordon-Reed also remembers the oral histories that her own grandmother shared casually — things that made more sense as Reed started to research her own family history in Texas. Her findings are documented in a new book entitled, On Juneteenth, which is part history and part memoir about the importance of that day in Texas. “We're not divorced from that time period from Juneteenth in 1865, and what happened afterwards. The hope that there would be equality was there, but we know from the very beginning, it was met with a backlash and it's a backlash that seems to be still going on today, ” says Gordon-Reed. In On Juneteenth, Gordon-Reed writes about the formerly enslaved, and the hope they carried after being emancipated. They had joy in their freedom, despite the reality that their struggle was far from over. “To know that just a decade later with the end of reconstruction, redemption governments would come in and they would limit black voting and initiate an era of Jim Crow that lasted until the 1960s. And that links to me, to my story," says Gordon-Reed. “It’s worthwhile to go back and think about the hope that these people had, and think about what we’re doing to have those hopes fulfilled. What we can do to make sure that the struggles of this journey continue in the right direction.”

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