Galveston Connection to Juneteenth

Learn more about the history of Juneteenth in Galveston

Galveston Connection to Juneteenth

Are you familiar with the history of Juneteenth and its connection with Galveston? Until recently, it was a little-known fact that it took more than two years for news of President Abraham Lincoln’s January 1, 1863, Emancipation Proclamation, which officially outlawed slavery in Texas and other states at war with the Union to be shared and enforced in Texas.

Finally, on June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston to enforce the emancipation of the slaves. A historical marker on the site of General Granger’s headquarters at the corner of 22nd and Strand commemorates this important date in history.

In 2021, the United States recognized Juneteenth on a national level. President Joe Biden signed legislation on Thursday, June 17, 2021, making Juneteenth a federal holiday. Now, June 19 is a national day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. 

To commemorate Galveston’s important connection to this history, there is a 5,000 sq. ft. public art installation and “storytelling space” painted on the side of a building at the site of General Granger’s headquarters. The art installation called “Absolute Equality,” commissioned by the Juneteenth Legacy Project and created by artist Reginald C. Adams tells this story and more. 

More than an estimated 1,000 people joined in the “Absolute Equality” dedication on June 19, 2021. US Senator John Corynn and US Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, who sponsored the legislation, also spoke at the dedication.   

This art installation uses four portals depicting an evolutionary narrative, including enslaved Africans being marched onto ships (including Esteban, the first nonnative enslaved person, who arrived shipwrecked on Galveston Island in 1528); Harriet Tubman, the leader of the Underground Railroad that ferried enslaved Black people to freedom north of the Mason-Dixon line; Abraham Lincoln holding the Emancipation Proclamation; and most notably, Granger issuing General Order No. 3 on Juneteenth, flanked by Black Union soldiers. 

The words of General Order No. 3. Is part of the art installation and reads,

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

This mural offers a virtual history lesson. You can download the Uncover Everything app for an augmented reality tour of the mural. After downloading, hover over the image for a video on each part of the art display. 

Additionally, the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau has created a self-guided “Freedom Walk” highlighting five historic sites and their importance to Juneteenth. For details, visit the CVB website and download the Visit Galveston App. 

We hope you take time to learn more about Galveston’s connection to Juneteenth by stopping by to see “Absolute Equality” and doing the “Freedom Walk” during your stay. 

Ryson Vacation Rentals offers more than 260 properties across the island that provide plenty of reasons to visit Galveston this year. If you need help planning your visit, Gulf Coast Concierge is available to assist.

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