Texas Tidbits

From a sock hop in Galveston to a basketball competition in Austin, Juneteenth celebrations across the state commemorate the emancipation of slaves.

History books and elementary school teachers educate us on the Emancipation Proclamation that President Abraham Lincoln issued on January 1, 1863. However, the date June 19, 1865, is seldom mentioned in textbooks as a significant turning point in African American slavery. Two and a half years after the initial issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Union Major General Gordon Granger read General Order Number Three to the people in Galveston and freed the African American slaves in Texas. This day was commemorated through establishing a holiday called Juneteenth, and it celebrates the emancipation of slaves with the likes of prayer services, parades, pageants, and gospel music. All across the nation, people celebrate this Texas holiday.

Austin

Capital City Juneteenth 2005 (June 10–19)

The spirit of competition is strong in this series of events designed to get the younger crowd involved. Several organizations in East Austin have collaborated to feature the Miss Juneteenth Pageant on June 12 and the Gospel Explosion on June 19, which is a chance for drill teams, dancers, and choirs to compete. Other activities include the Oxygen Freedom Run and Walk, the traditional Juneteenth Parade and celebration, and the intergenerational Juneteenth Carnival June 15–18. Call 512-832-9058 for more information.

The Tyrone Johnson Basketball Showcase allows boys and girls under the age of eighteen to compete by age group for trophies. This year, college scouts will be on hand to see the youths play. And in the spirit of the movie Drumline, marching bands will participate in a pre-Juneteenth parade down Congress Avenue, then compete in a Battle of the Bands. Call 512-482-8548 for more information.

Dallas

Juneteenth Film Festival (June 17–19)

Attend film screenings and vote for your favorite film to receive a “Junie!” This Texas festival, held at the Black Academy of Arts and Letters in the heart of Dallas, was started last year when attorney and film buff Kennedy Barnes decided that African American faces in front of and behind the camera needed more recognition and awareness. This year, a “Junie” Lifetime Achievement Award will go to actress Ruby Dee and her late husband, Ossie Davis, who were also honored in 2004 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, for their theatrical and cinematic contributions. Texas native and Oscar winner Jamie Foxx will receive the Local Hometown Achievement Award. There will also be workshops with renowned casting directors, musicians, and actors interested in helping young hopefuls succeed. Call 214-353-4445 for more information.

Best Southwest Juneteenth Celebration (June 18)

Not one, not two, not three, but four cities—Lancaster, DeSoto, Duncanville, and Cedar Hill—have combined efforts for their second annual celebration of the day that Texas ended slavery. A parade will make its way down the main street of Lancaster, with the rest of the festivities taking place at Lancaster Community Park. There’s more than your usual barbecue cook-off and carnival, though. Check out the essay contest, fashion show, and health fair, which focuses on diagnosing health problems common among African Americans. The Mighty Marvelous 4, a local group, will perform at eight that night, but if you can’t stay that late, at least stick around long enough for the tea cake and sweet potato pie contests. Call 972-218-1134 for more information.

Galveston

The birthplace of Juneteenth is host to a flurry of activities, from the Thirteenth Annual Juneteenth Development Corporation Beauty Pageant (a scholarship competition for young women) to a parade featuring horse-drawn carriages, June 11–19. Here are a few of the highlights.

Third Annual Underground Railroad (June 17)

About two hundred 8- to 11-year-olds will hear strains of “Wade in the Water” at Kempner Park as they learn about the Underground Railroad. Children find out how African Americans tried to gain freedom prior to the Emancipation Proclamation through songs (used to signal when it was safe to move on) and quilts designed with directions on which road to take (hung up in windows). Adult volunteers, or “conductors,” on this Underground Railroad experience chaperone the children as they travel through the park to meet “characters” instrumental in leading many slaves to freedom. Call 409-740-0454 for more information.

Galveston Gathering (June 15–19)

This series of events reconnects people who attended and graduated from Central High School, the first high school in Texas for African Americans (now known as the Old Central Cultural Center). Not only will alumni get together for activities with their respective classes, they can also bring family and friends to events such as the Back to School Sock Hop on June 17 and the Juneteenth Central High Blue and White Ball on June 18, where old classmates can reminisce about bygone days and dance the night away. Call 409-762-6048 or 409-740-0146 for more information.

Twenty-sixth Annual Emancipation Proclamation Reading and Prayer Breakfast (June 18)

Thought to be the most widely attended event of all the Juneteenth celebrations in Galveston, this yearly reading is so significant because Major General Gordon Granger first read the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865, when he landed in Galveston. State representative Al Edwards, who helped make Juneteenth a state holiday, will be on hand. During the ceremony, children will sing songs they learned at the Underground Railroad the previous day. Call 409-742-2912 for more information.

Sixth Annual Gospel Explosion in the Park (June 18)

Bring your lawn chairs or sit on the park benches and enjoy the gospel music by local church choirs, soloists, and praise dancers. If you have a hankering for a religious shirt or two, the nearby vendor booths should provide just the thing. Call 409-762-0088 for more information.

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