About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "On Juneteenth"

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s virtual author lecture with Annette Gordon-Reed, author of On Juneteenth.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

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On Tuesday, June 8, at 7 p.m., former President George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff, Jean Becker, will tell us about her book on the Bush post-Presidency: The Man I Knew. Joining Jean in conversation is Warren Finch, director of the George Bush Presidential Library.

And on Wednesday, June 9, at 1 p.m., we will present a program in partnership with the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress called “Can Congress Reform Itself Again?” Our moderator will be Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, and panelists will include current and former Members of Congress

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The celebration of Juneteenth—for long a solely Texas event—has spread across the country in recent years. The name—a combination of June and 19th—derives from the June 19, 1865, military order that declared an end to slavery in Texas. U.S. Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, which unambiguously declared: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, but until last year, no one had thought to ask about its documentary origin. It had long been available and consulted in its printed form, but last summer, a NARA employee’s question led us to the original handwritten order. This landmark document of freedom was digitized and is now in the online National Archives Catalog.

Annette Gordon-Reed’s new book On Juneteenth, tells the sweeping story of Juneteenth’s integral importance to American history. In a recent review in the Washington Post, Daina Ramey Berry wrote, “Gordon-Reed offers a timely history lesson. She does so with beautiful prose, breathtaking stories and painful memories.”

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Annette Gordon-Reed is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard. She has won 16 book prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize in History and the National Book Award for The Hemingses of Monticello. Professor Gordon-Reed was the Vyvyan Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at the University of Oxford in 2014-2015. Between 2010 and 2015, she was the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She has been President of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic and 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. She 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.

Joining Professor Gordon-Reed in conversation tonight is Roy Young, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Montpelier Foundation, which operates James Madison’s historic home in Virginia.

He most recently served as a business consultant to Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library in Delaware and currently co-chairs the Historic House and Sites Network at the American Alliance of Museums. Prior to that, he was Vice President for Guest Experience at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and has held leadership positions at Fallingwater/Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and at the University of Arizona Museum of Art and Visual Archives.

Now let’s hear from Annette Gordon-Reed and Roy Young. Thank you for joining us today.