On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed 📚
This is an even shorter book which I added to my library queue last month, written by a Texas-born historian of slavery in the United States, and exploring her personal relationship with the mythology and history of the state of Texas, the origin and subsequent celebration of Juneteenth, and what life was like growing up Black in a society where White is the “norm.”
One of the important points she discusses is how the traditional history of the US presents slavery as an aberration of the deep past which only affected a few unimportant (Black) people, and that the entire history of Black people in American can be reduced to that enslavement. In fact many people of African descent were on the continent well before 1619, most of them speaking languages other than English; there have always been communities of free Black people in all parts of the nascent United States; and the entire economic development of the country, in the North as well as the South, depended on the unreimbursed labor of the enslaved.
In the best of all worlds Juneteenth would be a reaffirmation of the Declaration’s central principal that “all men are created equal,” later codified in the 14th Amendment (and someday perhaps joined by the ERA as the 28th), and enforced by legislation and policies which address and correct the inequalities under which so many have lived for so long. By removing barriers which have prevented a large portion of our citizens from reaching their true potential we can at last reach the goal of “the pursuit of happiness” together.