2011-06-16 / General Stories

Commemorate Juneteenth With African American Heritage Travel Guide

Almost two and a half years after the U.S. abolishment of slavery in 1863, African Americans in Texas were finally freed when Union Gen. Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston on June 19, 1865. Deemed Juneteenth, the date has since become an international day of celebration, officially becoming a state holiday in 1980.

By some accounts, Granger’s public reading of “General Order No. 3” occurred on the balcony of Ashton Villa, an Italianate mansion on Galveston’s Broadway Street. Today, a Juneteenth monument on the grounds commemorates the occasion, and Galveston’s Juneteenth parade and festivities draw visitors from around the world. This is one of dozens of stories recounted in the Texas Historical Commission’s (THC) new publication, African Americans in Texas: A Lasting Legacy.

The THC encourages using these travel resources to learn about the real stories of African American heritage and to attend Juneteenth commemorations around the state. Among the multitude of such events are two held in locations mentioned in www.africanamericansintexas.com. The 10 acres that comprise Emancipation Park in Houston were purchased in 1872 by African American churches and organizations that combined money to buy the property as a location for annual Juneteenth celebrations that still occur today. Similarly, in 1898, African Americans in Mexia purchased the land that became Booker T. Washington Emancipation Proclamation Park to have a permanent location for annual commemorations.

The free, 72-page booklet, African Americans in Texas: A Lasting Legacy, is the largest travel guide produced to date by the THC. Organized by the 10 heritage regions in the THC’s national-award-winning Texas Heritage Trails Program (THTP), it features 79 cultural and historical sites of significance to the African American experience. The booklet also contains a chronological introduction, a multi-page timeline, and nine thematic sidebars. It is the first THC travel guide developed with a companion website, which includes the booklet available as a free download, maps, a photo gallery, travel- planning resources, and additional sites not featured in the booklet.

“Texas legends and regular, hardworking folks created the long and proud African American heritage celebrated in our new travel guide,” said Mark Wolfe, THC executive director. “It took years of research, documentation, and development to compile their stories and places into our new print and online publications. We are proud to share this powerful legacy that has undeniably shaped today’s Lone Star State mystique.”

The THTP helps Texas communities promote tourism, revitalize local economies, and foster community leadership through historic preservation. The program encourages people to venture out and rediscover Texas’ cultural and historical assets, and it capitalizes on the economic impact of heritage tourism—a $5.18-billion-a-year industry. The program’s new website offers more interactive options for plotting your next trip anywhere within the 10 Texas heritage trail regions.

To learn more about African Americans in Texas: A Lasting Legacy, call 512.463.6255.

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