Books by Muriel Miller Branch

JUNETEENTH by Muriel Miller Branch
Released: April 1, 1998

A book with an inviting format just adequately explains the African-American celebration and its origins in Texas of the 1900s. In six loosely organized chapters, Branch (The Water Brought Us, 1995) describes Juneteenth—June 19, 1865the day many slaves in Texas were told of their freedom ``two years, six months, and eighteen days late,'' because the Emancipation Proclamation was dated January 1, 1863. Branch discusses the various reasons and legends that have grown up around this delay, concluding that the slaves were deceived so they would continue as free labor, working on the crops. Spontaneous celebration at the news of freedom led to an annual holiday in Texas, and, as African- Americans moved out of that state, across the country. The text assumes a knowledge of the institution of slavery, who was affected, where they lived, and what life was like for the enslaved; words such as secede are defined, but not white supremacist or lynching. There is a description of what occurred when slaves learned they were free, including a few quotes from primary sources. After a description of the holiday's origins, ``part revival . . . family reunion and homecoming,'' the organization becomes slippery. Branch goes to some length discussing her search for a contemporary celebration; she attends festivals and recounts in detail the organizations and groups that perform, in coverage that reads like a feature article in a small-town newspaper. Sketchy information on how to organize a celebration appears; the book makes use of excellent black-and- white reproductions and amateurish, badly cropped contemporary photographs. (bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

``Gullah is both a language and a people,'' Miller states in her first book, and she goes on to explore the history, heritage, and culture of these descendants of slaves in a mix of memoir and workmanlike exposition. ``Gullah'' refers to the mix of English and West African languages as well as the 150,000 African-Americans who live along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia, especially on the Sea Islands. Miller effectively limns the religious faith and traditions, folklore, language, and arts of this fascinating group; she strikes an inspirational tone by weaving much personal observation and anecdote into the text. The result, a melange of interviews, oral history, and background facts, is not completely successful, but most readers will find this compelling material. Miller's is a unique contribution, filling a significant gap in African-American history; the book should be on every shelf. (b&w photographs, reproductions, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10+) Read full book review >