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Happy Juneteenth To Houstons Emancipation Park
Dated: June 12 2019
Houston’s Juneteenth history runs deep. As a major Texas city, the city was home to thousands of slaves that were liberated by the Emancipation Proclamation.
Newly freed Americans were looking for places and ways to celebrate but were still prohibited from many public spaces because of legally enforced segregation. The end of slavery was not the end of raced based discrimination by a long shot. To celebrate where black people would be freely welcome, they purchased their own land and created their own public spaces over the following years.
This pooling of resources to secure the Juneteenth celebrations is what created Houston’s famous Emancipation Park. To this day, Emancipation Park celebrates the value of the black Texan with community events and outreach. For a long time, it was the only park in Houston that allowed black citizens at all.
Emancipation Park is located in an important part of Houston, as well. This neighborhood has achieved civil rights victories and is still home to many families that have lived through societal changes as we get closer to a country of equality for all. From the freeing of slaves to fighting Jim Crow to the present-day healing of divides, Greater Third Ward is a crucial part of our city’s yesterday and today.
Just a couple of blocks away, Houston’s first major lunch counter sit-in made an impact on the culture. On March 4, 1960, inspired by the famous Greensboro sit-ins and oter protests of the time, black Texas Southern University students bravely marched to Weingarten's to sit in protest. You can walk the blocks of Third Ward, Houston and see the historical landmarks that transformed the city and the nation.
The Holiday History
While the Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1st, 1863, it took longer for the news to land on the coast of Texas. Major General Granger came to Galveston with the gift of freedom June 19th, 1865.
Over the years, many rumors and myths have created a folklore around the delay in freedom for Texas slaves ranging from murder to government consperacy. If the Emancipation Proclamation order was at the beginning of the 1863rd year, why did Texas get the memo 2 years and 6 months afterward?
Well, Texas had a small number of Union troops due to its geography. That meant the life-saving law was not being enforced immediately, unlike other states with more union presence. The famous surrender of Robert E. Lee in April of 1865 helped shift the tide.
Granger, the man that landed in Galveston 2 years late, was equipped with famous Order Number 3. This order was news to most slave owners who hadn’t been keeping up with the politics of the day (convenient, right?). This freed the laborers to either stay on the property with pay or travel elsewhere entirely to explore their well-deserved and long-overdue freedom. Most of them chose the latter, traveling to Arkansas, Oklahoma, or Louisiana.
Community organizations celebrate freedom in different ways and on different dates all across Texas, thought the official “Juneteenth” is June 19th. Some people make the trek to Galveston because General Granger arrived in this port city first. Others host at-home barbeques, drink red soda, or read the order to free the slaves.
All over the country, there are different ways to celebrate. Find an event near you here.
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