Professor Annette Gordon-Reed on the importance of Juneteenth

The Pulitzer Prize-winner and author of "On Juneteenth" tells "The View" that commemorating Juneteenth is “a major advance in human rights” and shares where the U.S. stands on race and inequity today.
4:45 | 06/18/21

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Transcript for Professor Annette Gordon-Reed on the importance of Juneteenth
Tomorrow is juneteenth, a celebration of the end of slavery when Texas became the last state to free its slaves in 1865, two years after the emancipation proclamation. 156 years later it just became a federal holiday. Joining us now is the author of "On juneteenth," pulitzer prize winner, author, historian and Harvard professor Annette gordon-reed. Professor reed, first of all, thank you for being with us. Sunny has the first question. Thank you so much, professor. I loved your book. It's such easy reading. It's wonderful. Your new book is a series of essays about juneteenth, a celebration that started in your home state of Texas. Juneteenth just became a national holiday. Tell us why it's just so very important. I think it's important because the day commemorates a major advance in human rights. Everything wasn't okay for the enslaved people after they declared slavery was over. It ended legal slavery in Texas and was an important step for the American union. In this book you write about your childhood. You grew up during the final years of segregation in Conroe, Texas, and you were the first black student to integrate a white school in your town. Tell us about your experiences dealing with segregation and how hard was it to integrate your schools? Well, when I was a small child, when I went to the doctor, we had to go to separate waiting rooms, smaller waiting rooms for the black citizens and not as well appointed as the one that was reserved for whites. When we went to the movies, we had to sit in the balcony. When I was 6 years old my parents decided to sent me to a white school. It was tough at first. My teacher, Mr. Dockerty was wonderful. She treated me like the other students. Some of the kids were nice. Some weren't. It was a mixed bag. I was happy when later on more students joined me after the supreme court struck down freedom of choice plans. Last month we commemorated the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. His death sparked worldwide protests and what many have called a racial reckoning. Where do you think the country stands on race and inequity today? We're at an interesting time period. Things have gone backwards in a number of ways as we witness some of the states around the country that have been putting in place what are essentially voter ppression measures which are designed upon the fact that so many people came out to vote. In that way we seem to be sliding backwards. I think the George Floyd murder sparked a conversation that was necessary. I was surprised to see how it went nationwide and worldwide. It's opening up a dialogue, a conversation that I think is really important. I hope it continues. President Obama recently said that one of the biggest issues dividing America is cancel culture. Do you agree with him? No, I don't. I don't think -- well, put it this way, one of the biggest issues -- I think we have many issues bigger than that. I think the notion of cancel culture depends on the politics of the person. People on the left and right try to shout down people with whom they disagree. I wouldn't say that's a major problem. I admire the president very much, but I disagree with him about that as a major issue. Professor, 14 states have passed laws that will make it harder for people to vote. Many believe this is voter suppression and these laws will disenfranchise millions of black voters in particular. Are we seeing Jim crow two? Related to the question previously, I think this is the major issue, a huge issue in the country right now. People seem to be trying to bring us back to that. We're not at Jim crow two yet. There are efforts to do this. There are also efforts to counter act it. We'll see whethe they're successful or not. It is an attempt I think to cut down on black voter participation. We're going to go to break

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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