Although Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, many slaves weren’t freed until the news reached their towns. The last slaves to be freed lived in the South and were freed on June 19, 1865 after the Emancipation Proclamation was read on a harbor pier in Galveston, Texas.
Galveston has been commemorating this event for many years and, in 1980, Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth an official state holiday. Juneteenth is now celebrated in more than 40 states throughout the country.
This year, Galveston will celebrate this occasion with a new festival, expanded parade and new history tours. The new events will complement the annual picnics, barbecue cook-offs, African American Heritage exhibits, concerts and reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in front of the official Juneteenth monument. You can find a full schedule of events at www.galveston.com/juneteenth. A majority of these events including the Emancipation Proclamation Reading take place on June 19-20.
Some interesting facts regarding Galveston’s African American Heritage:
· Four churches that were formed more than 100 years ago were the first in Texas to be organized for African Americans in their denomination and are still in existence.
· Galveston was the first city in Texas to create a secondary school to serve African Americans.
· Galveston was the first city in Texas to offer a public library for African Americans.
· Politician Norris Wright Cuney, world heavyweight champion Jack Johnson and entertainer Barry White all had ties to the Galveston community.
(Source: Galveston Historical Foundation)