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A Gulf Coast Juneteenth

Juneteenth in Houston

Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom and commemoration of the abolition of slavery. It has been honored since 1865. LEARN MORE

Frederick Douglass
has been called "the father of the Civil Rights movement in the United States." LEARN MORE

The Emancipation Proclamation was effective by authority of President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. LEARN MORE

Smithsonian Magazine, in its May 2008 issue, recommends Houston's Juneteenth celebration as the Number 3 "Hotspot" in the nation in "Destination America."

Emancipation Park

Emancipation Park, in Houston's Third Ward, has been the site of many Juneteenth celebrations over its nearly one-and-a-half century existence.

Emancipation Day celebrations originated in Galveston on June 19, 1865. Following Major General Gordon Granger's proclamation in Galveston that slaves were free after the Union defeat of the Confederacy, the celebration of Emancipation Day spread to Houston and throughout Texas.

President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, mandating freedom for slaves, became effective on January 1, 1863, nearly two years after the start of the Civil War. Emancipation Park was established to honor the freedom for slaves that was called for by President Lincoln, but which did not come to them until the conclusion of the war two years later.

To celebrate Emancipation Day, freed slaves in Texas sought to purchase land in cities like Houston, Austin and Mexia for the annual June celebration of emancipation that came to be known as Juneteenth.

Led by Reverend Jack Yates, former slave and Baptist minister, the Colored People's Festival and Emancipation Park Association made a $1,000 down payment on a 10-acre tract of land in Houston's Third Ward and began Emancipation Day celebrations in 1872.

Many participants in the Emancipation Park Association lived in nearby Freedmen's Town in the Fourth Ward and attended Antioch Baptist Church and Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church. Segregation prevented access for African Americans to many city facilities, making Emancipation Park the only park open to Black residents.

In 1918 the site became a public park operated by the City of Houston. The WPA (Works Progress Administration, also called Work Projects Administration) constructed the park's community center building in 1939. The Association for Study of Afro-American Life and History dedicated a plaque near the entrance of the building to Reverend Jack Yates in 1976.

Today, Friends of Emancipation Park, a local conservancy organization, is working with city officials to revitalize the park and continue its tradition of celebrating Juneteenth.

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