A Yearning for Honest History

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed and RCL Pr7a

JUN 24, 2023

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.”  Matthew 10:26.

New Hampshire, like 17 other states, has a “divisive concepts” law on the books. The law is intended to dissuade K-12 teachers from teaching honest black history and/or anything that suggests the concept of “systemic racism.”  It is currently being challenged in the federal courts by the AFT and ACLU.

People who are afraid of honest history would do well to read On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed. The book begins as personal and family memoir. It expands to include stories about Montgomery County, Tx., Juneteenth, the Alamo and Texas history. Finally, we see that the book is about American history, because American history is like Texas history: simple on the level of myth. Not simple and less uplifting when that which has been covered up and written-out of the history books is uncovered.

What has been written-out are the stories of Native Americans, women, Mexican-Americans, and crucially Black Americans. As historians like Gorden-Reed uncover these stories, it is a good thing.

No one should be afraid to read On Juneteenth. Its narrative flows and the book is easy to keep thinking about after the last page is read. Maybe that is because Gordon-Reed does not write to instill shame or guilt. She writes to share and inform and instill in us a yearning for more of the truth. Honest history in all of its complexities. She writes:

“Love does not require taking an uncritical stance toward the object of one’s affection. In truth, it often requires the opposite. We can’t be of real service to the hopes we have for places — and people, ourselves included — without a clear-eyed assessment of their (and our) strengths and weaknesses. That often demands a willingness to be critical, sometimes deeply so. How that is done matters, of course. Striking the right balance can be exceedingly hard. I hope I’ve achieved the proper equilibrium.”

She has.