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Houston’s Emancipation Park Keeps Tradition Alive With 147th Juneteenth Celebration

By Danielle Dorsey

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Slavery was outlawed with President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on New Year’s Day in 1863, but it would take two and a half years before that news reached Texas, where white plantation owners were all too eager to continue with business as usual.

On June 19, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation was read by Major General Gordon Granger on a Galveston pier, and 250,000 slaves were freed. You can still view the announcement in the Galveston Tri-Weekly News from the archives of the Briscoe Center for American History.

Juneteenth rose up as an unofficial day of remembrance within Black communities, a way of celebrating progress while also honoring the memories of those who were forced to work after their freedom had been granted.

In 1872, former slaves Reverends Jack Yates, Elias Dibble, Richard Allen, and Richard Brock collected $800 (or close to $17,000 when adjusted for inflation) to purchase ten acres of Houston land to create Emancipation Park. The four men wanted to establish a place where Black communities could gather in peace and 147 years later, the tradition is still going strong.

Today, Emancipation Park is owned by the City of Houston and co-managed by the Emancipation Park Conservancy, which has organized several events throughout the month of June, including the 147th Juneteenth Celebration. In addition to entertainment and barbecue, this year’s Juneteenth celebration includes reenactments and testimony from Jacquelin Bostic, the great-granddaughter of Reverend Yates.

Lucy Bremond, executive director of the Emancipation Park Conservancy, told Houston Press that their annual Juneteenth events provide opportunities to share oral histories and inspire future generations.

“The whole story about Emancipation Park and Juneteenth, about history, about preservation, about the ‘can do itness,’” Bremond said. “Just think about 1872 and if you can understand what they did to overcome all those obstacles, it gives people endless possibilities to think about. [Children will think,] ‘If they can do it, I can do anything.’”

Click here for a full list of Juneteenth events at Emancipation Park.

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