Updated: Apr 6, 2021
Keri Heath | The Galveston Daily News | February 1, 2021
When Sam Collins III drove past the corner of 22nd and Strand streets
last year, the big blank wall behind the plaque noting Galveston’s
unique significance in the history of Juneteenth caught his eye.
Within the next few months, regional artists will turn the wall that
overlooks Old Galveston Square into a vibrant mural that illustrates
the journey of Black Americans out of slavery and into freedom.
Juneteenth, or June 19, has long been celebrated as the date enslaved
people learned of their freedom in Texas. Project organizers hope the
mural and companion outreach campaign, known as the Juneteenth Legacy
Project, will raise awareness about the date and contribute to a
growing push to make Juneteenth a national holiday, they said.
The Juneteenth Legacy Project officially launched Monday after months
Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 that the Union Army reached Galveston
and announced news of the Emancipation Proclamation, two years after
it was signed. Texas was the last state to learn the news.
The mural project will seek to capture that legacy, specifically the
idea of “absolute equality,” said Collins, who also co-chairs the
“Absolute equality is about giving everyone the opportunity to become
their very best self without hurdles or obstacles that will hold them
back so they can become their very best self for the benefit of the
collective community,” Collins said.
Collins began thinking this summer about national conversations about
displaying statues of Confederate soldiers, he said. Many argued
statues of Confederate figures or slave owners should be removed.
‘IT’S DIVINE TO ME’
Collins wanted to see more representation of Black historical figures
and stories, he said.
“How do we expand the conversation and the narrative around our
history?” Collins said.
Houston artist Reginald C. Adams will lead the team working on the mural.
Excitement brimmed in Adams’ voice as he talked about the project,
which he considers an extension of other art installations on which he
“It’s divine to me,” Adams said. “This will go into the history books;
this will be written up in all types of journals.”
Adams also has worked on projects that celebrate Black history,
including a sculpture in Emancipation park in Houston.
The colorful, 5,000- square-foot mural will consist of different
sections that highlight different eras of history, including the
Underground Railroad, Black Union soldiers, explorers and the signing
of General Order No. 3, which informed Texans of emancipation.
‘GOOD WILL TO GALVESTON’
The committee also plans to create an augmented reality platform
around the mural in which visitors will be able to download an app and
move their smartphones over the mural to connect with links to videos
and additional historic information, Adams said.
It has planned other components to the project, as well, including a
literary contest for young people and a documentary about the making
of the mural, Adams said.
“This is going to bring a hyper focus to the island,” Adams said. “If
we do it well, it’s going to bring a lot of good will to Galveston.”
Galveston’s significance to Juneteenth became more widely known this
summer, when people around the country, including in Galveston County,
took to the streets as part of the Black Lives Matter movement to
denounce police brutality and demand equal justice. The protests came
in the wake of the May 25 death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd,
who was held down by officers, including one who put his knee on
Calls to make Juneteenth a national holiday grew this summer. Texas
was the first state to recognize the date in 1980.
“I don’t see how it doesn’t become a holiday now,” Collins said.
“There should be a celebration of freedom from June 19 to July 4.”
‘NOT JUST A TEXAS THING’
Fort Worth resident Opal Lee, who is in her 90s, has for several years
been walking through multiple cities across the country — including
Galveston — to raise awareness for the Juneteenth holiday.
Lee wants to see the holiday become nationally recognized, she said Monday.
“I’ve just been having the best time having Juneteenth celebrations,”
said Lee, an honorary chairwoman for the legacy project. “It’s not
just a Texas thing. There are 47 states that celebrate Juneteenth in
some form or fashion.”
The team also involves Mitchell Historic Properties, which owns Old
Galveston Square, and the Nia Cultural Center, a local community
Adams and the team of artists should begin painting around March 1, he
said. The legacy committee hopes to culminate the many months of work