Keri Heath | The Galveston Daily News | April 28, 2021
The run-up to Juneteenth will be a month-and-a-half-long community education and awareness effort that organizers hope will culminate in a large-scale celebration.
During a livestreamed tour Wednesday, which members of the local media were allowed to attend in person, local historian Sam Collins III explained how the project is making efforts to bring new attention to historically important events in Galveston. The tour was part of the Juneteenth Legacy Project, a multi-faceted effort aimed at educating the public about Black history, especially in Galveston.
Collins also is a co-chair of the legacy project. The centerpiece of the project is a massive, vibrant mural at the Old Galveston Square, 22nd Street and Strand, depicting the arrival of Black people in America and the emancipation of the enslaved. Houston artist Reginald Adams headed work on the mural.
During the tour, Collins focused on specific locations significant to General Order No. 3, which freed enslaved people. Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger brought the news of the order to Galveston June 19, 1865.
Collins pointed to historic locations such as the U.S. Customs and Court House, 1918 Postoffice St., and Reedy Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2015 Broadway, a historically Black church. The Union soldiers had walked from the court house to the chapel to post the order, he said. “We want to turn these spaces into outdoor classrooms,” Collins said. Although the Confederacy surrendered to the Union in April 1865, many places in the south — including Texas — refused to surrender, Collins said. Union troops marched through the south and eventually sailed to Galveston to announce and enforce the Union’s victory. Many of the soldiers who came to Galveston were Black, Collins said. They helped spread the word of freedom to those who were enslaved, many of whom were illiterate, Collins said. “This story of these Black soldiers coming into Galveston is not one that I think any historians wanted to highlight.” It took time to spread the word of freedom, but Black Texans were celebrating by January 1866, Collins said. The Juneteenth Legacy Project aims to highlight that history, he said. All of the education builds to what Collins hopes will be a large celebration for Juneteenth. While Collins is remaining conscious of COVID-19 safety procedures, he wants to see a festival on a scale that matches other large-scale island events. “Everything is building to June 19,” Collins said. “It is my prayer that it is one of the largest in a very long time.”