UPDATE: President Biden has signed a bill declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday! Take a look at the written proclamation HERE.
To be honest, I’ve lived in Houston for over 20 years, and it wasn’t until I started working for HCPL that I learned about the deep-rooted history Houston has with Juneteenth.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863, enslaved African Americans in Texas (and much of the south) didn't know about it. It wasn't until June 19, 1865, two and a half years later, when it was announced in Galveston.
Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee day or Freedom day, is a state holiday that celebrates June 19, 1865. It was the date when Union General Granger rode out to Texas, the westmost border of the confederacy, and announced to enslaved African Americans and Texas residents of the Emancipation Proclamation.
This was his announcement in Galveston:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
One of Houston’s best connections to Juneteenth is Emancipation Park, located in Houston's Third Ward. The Park opened in 1872 is one of the oldest parks in the country to have been established by newly freed people.
Juneteenth is now celebrated across the country, with parades, observances, and festivals to remember this important moment in history. Houston’s own Juneteenth Parade was first held in 1974 and although it was canceled in 2020 and 2021, other public events can still be found. Miller Outdoor Theater will be streaming A Gulf Coast Juneteenth for free 2 days after the event (hillside seating is free).
Harris County Public Library will be hosting a series of events this year to commemorate the anniversary as well. Take a look at our June 10th event: Juneteenth: A Conversation with D.J. Norman-Cox.
On June 17th, we’ll hold the seminar African Spirituals with Joseph Dixon on our Facebook Live.
In recognition of this holiday, we invite you to check out some of these electronic reads:
This post was researched using HCPL’s electronic resources found at hcpl.net and other organizations. Check out our Virtual Programs page and Events Calendar for any classes on how to use our resources.
Featured Image: Juneteenth Celebration at Emancipation Park 1880 touched up. A group photograph of thirty-one people at a Juneteenth Celebration in Emancipation Park in Houston's Fourth Ward. Reverend Jack Yates is pictured on the left and Sallie Yates is pictured in the center toward the front in a black outfit.