GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – “Juneteenth,” which began on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, when General Gordon Granger of the Union Army gave a long-delayed reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, is now celebrated throughout the South and points beyond. Thirteen states have named it a holiday.
There were celebrations this year in every Texas population center where African Americans live. The commemorations were bigger than usual because the 19th fell on a Saturday, so crowds were not divided into those who take the working day off and those who don’t.
Civil rights groups rise to their highest glory on Juneteenth. In Houston, marchers included a group in Buffalo Soldier uniforms. In Galveston’s annual celebration, the state’s oldest newspaper reported that churches with big African American congregations played a dominant role.
Blues music and displays of African American history were the big features in Dallas’ Fair Park. The statue “Dream of Freedom,” by artist David Newton, was dedicated at Freedman’s Cemetery downtown. Parents and grandparents proudly taught their children about the long and continuing struggle for fair treatment in Texas.
Both of the sites in Dallas have a sobering history. Freedman’s Park was only begun after the scandal when highway construction crews began digging up cadavers from unmarked slave graves. Fair Park, constructed on the sites of hundreds of demolished African American homes, was available to African Americans only one day a year for its first several decades of existence.
Texans celebrate every June 19, but they know that the grand battle continues. For example, petitions are being circulated this year for a Juneteenth stamp. Computer users can sign up at http://www.juneteenth.com/juneteenth_petition.htm.
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