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Race in America: History Matters with Annette Gordon-Reed, Historian & Author, “On Juneteenth”

Annette Gordon-Reed, Historian & Author joins Washington Post Live on Friday, June 18 (Video: The Washington Post)

Juneteenth is one of the oldest celebrations commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, a military decree was announced in Galveston, Tex., informing enslaved people in the Confederate state that they were free. Washington Post opinions writer Jonathan Capehart spoke with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Texas native Annette Gordon-Reed about her new book “On Juneteenth,” the legacy of slavery and the struggles that remain to achieve racial equality.

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Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed says Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday brings the story of enslaved people and the history behind the creation of the holiday “into closer focus.” “Making it a national holiday, something that everybody celebrates, not just Texans, is a way of bringing that story and the story of enslaved people into closer focus. Also, I should say the aftermath of slavery and the struggle that African Americans have still been on from those days until today.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed says attempts to ban the teaching of critical race theory in schools are a “distraction.” “Talking about race, in and of itself, is not critical race theory…People are harping on it because they know it pushes a button among some members of the populous…It’s a ruse. It’s a distraction. It’s a culture war distraction to keep people from thinking about a lot the really serious issues that we have to face in this country.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed says the best way to celebrate Juneteenth is to spend time with your family. “Juneteenth is above all a family holiday and that’s what makes it wonderful…Being with your family is the most important thing, and talking about this day, and talking about the things that are important in your family. And by all means, take family history from the elders in your family.” (Video: Washington Post Live)

Annette Gordon-Reed

Annette Gordon-Reed is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard. Gordon-Reed won sixteen book prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2009 and the National Book Award in 2008, for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton, 2008). In addition to articles and reviews, her other works include Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (UVA Press, 1997). Vernon Can Read! A Memoir, a collaboration with Vernon Jordan. (PublicAffairs 2001), Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History (Oxford University Press, 2002), a volume of essays that she edited, Andrew Johnson (Times Books/Henry Holt, 2010) and, most recently, with Peter S. Onuf, “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination (Liveright Publishing, 2016). Gordon-Reed was the Vyvyan Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at the University of Oxford (Queens College) 2014-2015. Between 2010 and 2015, she was the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She was the 2018-2019 President of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR). She is the current President of the Ames Foundation. A selected list of her honors includes a fellowship from the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, a Guggenheim Fellowship in the humanities, a MacArthur Fellowship, the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Award, the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, and the George Washington Book Prize, and the Anisfeld-Wolf Book. Gordon-Reed was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011 and was a member of the Academy’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. In 2019, she was elected as a member of the American Philosophical Society.