Thursday, June 18, 2020

Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison - BOOK BEGINNING

It's time for Book Beginnings on Fridays! Time to share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are featuring this week.

Post a link to your post below. Or put your book beginning in a comment. You can also participate on social media -- just leave a comment to tell us where to find you.

If you post or crosspost on social media, please use the #bookbeginnings hashtag so we can find each other.


Two days before the shooting a chartered planeload of Southern Negroes swooped down upon the District of Columbia and attempted to see the Senator.

-- Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison.


Juneteenth is set in 1950s and is the story Adam Sunraider, a race-baiting senator from a New England state. When he is wounded in an assassination attempt, he shocks all who know him by asking for Hickman, an elderly black minister. The story unfolds that Sunraider, known as a child by the name Bliss, was raised by Reverend Hickman in a joyful black Baptist community steeped in religion an music, a community much like the one Ellison grew up in himself.

Ralph Ellison is best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1952. He started writing Juneteenth in 1954, bit it was still incomplete at his death in 1994 and was published posthumously in 1999. His wife Fanny worked with his literary executor John Callahan to edit the book in preparation for its publication. Callahan was a friend of Ellison's, a leading scholar of his work, and my favorite college professor in my undergraduate days.


Juneteenth, the holiday, is getting a lot of attention this year. So I thought Ralph Ellison's book of the same name would be a good choice to highlight on June 19, the date Juneteenth is celebrated.

Juneteenth is an unofficial national holiday and an official state holiday in Texas. It marks the date in 1865 that that the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas to read the official order proclaiming that slaves in Texas had been freed. President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation almost two and a half years earlier, and the American Civil War had ended in April of 1865, but it took a long time for the news to get to Texas.


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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts The Friday 56 where participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of their current book. Please visit her blog to link your post and find other participants.

They relaxed in their chairs, the whiskey between them. Only the air-conditioning unit hummed below their voices. 
Happy Father's Day to all of you celebrating with your dads this weekend!

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