This Saturday, many African-Americans will celebrate freedom with picnics, barbecues, and concerts. Juneteenth, celebrated every June 19, represents freedom for African- Americans like the Fourth of July does for all Americans. Originally, a Texas holiday, Juneteenth marks the day that slaves in Texas learned that they were free.
On June 19, 1865, Union general Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston. This act freed the 250,000 slaves in Texas about two years after the proclamation was signed. The news did not reach Texas previously because Confederate troops stopped most Union troops from invading Texas. Slave owners had such power in the state that they managed to suppress the news of the Emancipation Proclamation for over two years.
News of the new-found freedom quickly spread from farm to farm and was met with dancing, singing, and shouts of joy. Some slaves stayed with their former masters while others took off immediately to see what else lay out there for them. In addition to the ability to travel, it also meant that slaves could finally legalize their marriages, name themselves, and gather together which allowed black churches to form.
Organizers used the first community wide Juneteenth celebrations to educate blacks about voting rights and rally for certain politicians. Soon, Juneteenth committees began forming state-wide celebrations.
The first Juneteenth celebration in the state capital occured in 1867. By 1872, the event was listed in the states calendar of public events. By the 1960s, people celebrated Juneteenth events with less fervor as the civil rights movement drew attention elsewhere. But in the 1970s, African-Americans became more interested in their culutral heritage, and Juneteenth celebrations gained more momentum. The day became a state holiday in 1979 when Houston Democrat Al Edwards introduced the bill. The next year, in 1980, Texans held their first state sponsored Juneteenth celebrations.
As Texans have moved to other parts of the country and taken their Juneteenth roots with them, the holiday has grown a nationwide. There are now petitions on the internet seeking to convince the United States Postal Service to issue an official Juneteenth stamp.
There are several events planned for Juneteenth in the Houston area this year:
June 18 “The Collaboration” of the African-American Aerospace Network, Boeing Black Employees Association, National Society of Black Engineers, National Technical Association, and United Space Alliance, will host a four-hour evening event on Friday, June 18th from 4:30 – 8:30 PM at Clear Lake Park on NASA Rd. 1 in Seabrook. The evening will include “edu-tainment” an awesome menu, rides, fun, and all the trimmings. Ticket prices range from Free – $8.00 depending on age.
June 19 The Fontaine/Scenic Woods Civic Club will again this year hold a community party to celebrate Juneteenth. The partywill include games and food at Scenic Woods Park on Cheeves starting at 5pm
June 19 The National Emancipation Association celebrates Juneteenth and the abolition of slavery with the 31st Annual Freedom Festival. The festival theme for 2004 is ”the strength of the family is the strength of the nation.” On June 19, the festivities begin with a Freedom Festival Parade downtown starting on Texas and Hamilton at 10AM. The Festival moves to Miller Outdoor Theatre at 2PM for free barbecue, talent shows and live bands throughout the evening.
June 19 12th Annual Juneteenth Festival Zydeco Rhythm & Blues Expo 2:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. 6130 Wheatley Street (Under the Big Tent) Entertainment includes: Nooney & The Zydeco Floaters; Booker T. Washingtons H. S. Band; The Baby Ocean of Soul Oceanetts; Ray Brown & Showtime Band (R & B); Business Networking Opportunity; Vendor Exhibitions; Fun & Games For All Ages; Loli-Pop the Clown
June 19 Whole Foods Market-Wilcrest Store 11145 Westheimer Houston, TX 77042 Event Contact Person-Tricia Jolly: 713.784.7776; Time: 11:30a.m.-1:30p.m. Admission and activities for this event are free and open to the public. There will be music, water games for children, free stickers, coloring books, and multiple booths full of festive and delicious foods.
Whole Foods Market 2955 Kirby Dr. Houston Texas 77098 Food, music, lots of fun in the best Natural food store in the nation. Contact: Mary Thomas 713.520.1937 for more details.
June 15-19 African American Heritage Exhibits 10:30am-5:00pm Exhibits by: Nia Culture Center Youth Contact: Ruth Ouzenne 409-765-7086 Old Central Cultural Center 2627 Avenue M Galveston, Texas 77550
June 16 Central High School Memorial Service 7:00pm Old Central Cultural Center 2627 Avenue M Galveston, Texas 77550 Contact: Margaret Bell 409-762-6048 Ceremony to honor deceased graduates of Central High School. A reception will follow the ceremony. The public is invited. Information of the Galveston Gathering will be available.
June 17 3rd Annual Juneteenth Heritage Play: “Flashback” Tickets $10/ Children $5 at the door Old Central Cultural Center 2627 Avenue M Galveston, Texas 77550 Contact: Maggie Williams, 409-744-1491 The spirit of the past continues to soar in the 21st Century saga. “Flashback” is a venture through an array of emotions, ranging from laughter to tears, as we receive our history in an evening of enchantment via music, dance, and song inspired by exciting, clever, witty, thought provoking dialogue.
June 18 2nd Annual Underground Railroad 9:00am-2:00pm Kempner Park, 27th and Avenue O Galveston, Texas 77550 Contact: Tommie Boudreaux 409-740-0454 The African American Heritage Committee and the Education Committee of the Galveston Historical Foundation proudly presents “The Making of an Underground Railroad: from Slavery to Freedom”.
June 19 25th Annual Emancipation Proclamation 8:30am Reading and Prayer Breakfast Ashton Villa, 2300 Broadway, Galveston, Texas 77550 Contact: Douglas Matthews 409-772-8773 A reading of the Emanicipation Proclamation will commemorate the historic event that took place in Galveston on June 19, 1865. State Represenative Al Edwards Texas Legislature will be in attendance. Rep. Edwards is from the Houston area and is the originator of two very important Juneteenth Bills.
Annual Juneteenth Jubilee Parade 11:00am 25th and Ball to the New Wright Cuney Park (41st and Ball) Contact: Leon Phillips 409-762-7777 This event will feature more than 70 units marching from 25th and Ball Street to 41st and Ball ending at the new Wright Cuney Park. Marching bands will include Ball High School and other local bands and dance teams.
Annual Juneteenth Jubilee Picnic 12:00pm New Wright Cuney Park, 41st and Ball Galveston, Texas 77550 Contact: Barbara Gordon 409-599-8050 Annie Mae Charles 409-762-5133 Music and activities for the entire family.
5th Annual Gospel Explosion in the Park 2004 4:00pm-9:00pm Menard Park 2700 Seawall Blvd. Galveston, Texas 77550 Contact: Peter and Quinnette James 409-621-1414 Rob Cahee 409-740-1144 The Gospel Explosion is a spiritual event for the entire family to enjoy. Soloist, church choirs and praise dancers from Galveston and surrounding areas will lift your spirits during this great celebration.
Reedy Chapel’s Annual March, Prayer Service, Musical and Picnic 4:30p From Galveston Court House (21st and Sealy) to Reedy Chapel.