Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed's new book reflects on Conroe upbringing

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Memoir 'On Juneteenth' reflects on life in segregated Conroe
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Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed might have left Texas, but tells Melanie Lawson the state never left her.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Historian Annette Gordon-Reed might have left Texas, but the state has never left her mind.

"Texas is sort of a mysterious place to people," she said. "I have been explaining Texas to people for a very long time."

Monday night, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family," sat down with Eyewitness News anchor Melanie Lawson for a discussion of her new memoir, "On Juneteenth."

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The book weaves together American history and Gordon-Reed's childhood memories through the lens of our newest federal holiday, which recognizes the first day of freedom for enslaved Africans in Texas and commemorates the end of slavery in the United States as a whole.

Born in a segregated East Texas in 1958, Gordon-Reed became the first Black student to attend a white school in Conroe, integrating her school district 10 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that separating students by race was unconstitutional.

"Everybody knew I was coming," Gordon-Reed said. "There had been some threats against my family, but I don't know if they were credible."

Throughout the book, the National Book Award winner meditates on the double consciousness of being both Black and Texan.

She also pays homage to her neighbors who helped make our first new federal holiday in 38 years possible.

"They took this holiday with them across the country," Gordon-Reed said. "I think we owe this to the tenacity of Texans who kept this story alive for 156 years, and in a way, I really do think it honors the ancestors of the Black people who were enslaved in Texas."

You can watch a recap of Melanie Lawson's interview in the video above and on your favorite streaming devices, like Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and Google TV. Just search "ABC13 Houston."

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