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Culture & Society

Commemorating Juneteenth

Reflections on the history and importance of the new national holiday.
By Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications June 18, 2021

 

man in a museum pointing to a piece of art on the wall
Sam Collins III ’93 takes visitors on a tour of the Juneteenth Legacy Project’s space at 22nd and Strand in Galveston, Texas.

Billy Smith/Texas A&M Division of Marketing & Communications

 

Businesses and schools across the United States, including Texas A&M University, are closed Friday in observance of Juneteenth after President Joe Biden signed a bill into law on Thursday making it a federal holiday.

The measure was passed in the House and Senate with bipartisan support. Traditionally a Texas-centered event not taught in history textbooks across the country, Juneteenth commemorates the day thousands of slaves finally learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865 when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island and read General Order No. 3.

Texas A&M former student Sam Collins III ’93 is the co-chair of the Juneteenth Legacy Project. Despite the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, it would take 2 1/2 more years for the news that enslaved Africans were freed to make its way to the westernmost Confederate hold in the country. Collins said the Galveston was the commercial center of Texas at the time, and considered the “New York of the South.”

“Many individuals see it as just another day, but it’s important to the former enslaved and the descendants of the former enslaved because it took individuals from being property, or seen as property, to being recognized as human beings,” Collins said.

Black history is important “because it’s American history,” said Carol Bunch Davis, assistant vice president for academic affairs at Texas A&M-Galveston.

“The more emphasis that we put on how those are intertwined, that they’re not separate entities, the closer we are to living out what the nation’s promise is supposed to be,” Davis said.

carol bunch looking at historical marker
Carol Bunch Davis at the Texas Historical Commission marker near a parking lot on The Strand and 22nd Street, where Gen. Gordon Granger’s headquarters stood. Granger read General Order No. 3 in Galveston, Texas.

Billy Smith/Texas A&M Division of Marketing & Communications

How To Observe Juneteenth

The Cushing Memorial Library & Archives is closed Friday, but will resume normal hours on Saturday. Located on the Texas A&M University campus, Cushing is home to several resources and documents on Black life in the United States.

The Charles Criner Collection contains renderings of Juneteenth celebrations. Cushing also holds materials related to Texas’ involvement in slavery, among other historical resources.

In Bryan-College Station, the annual Juneteenth Parade will begin Saturday at 10 a.m. The parade route starts in Bryan at Kemp Elementary and ends at Sadie Thomas Park. A blues festival begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Palace Theater in Downtown Bryan. The Brazos Valley African American Museum also opens Saturday at 1 p.m. with free admission.

Video by Billy Smith, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications

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