HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Communities and organizations around the city of Houston are joining forces for Juneteenth.
On Monday, Mayor Sylvester Turner was joined by community leaders to announce the citywide plans for Juneteenth, which will be a celebration spanning several days and places in the area, with festivities planned in Independence Heights, Fifth Ward, Freedmen's Town and more.
In April, the city announced a sesquicentennial celebration at Emancipation Park in honor of Juneteenth that will feature a star-studded lineup of performers, including Isley Brothers, Kool & the Gang, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Earnest Pugh, Zacardi Cortez, Monica Lisa Stevenson and Pastor Mike. ABC13 is the television partner of the free event at the park.
Turner unveiled the Juneteenth Houston website, so that people can more easily find events across the city's historic districts.
Events leading up to Juneteenth include:
- Juneteenth Tours, including the Reverend Jack Yates House
- National Black Film Festival
- Juneteenth Freedom Ride
- Juneteenth Youth Extravaganza and Talent Show
- Nextgen Legacy Juneteenth Event: Creating Wealth in the Metaverse and through Commercial Real Estate
- Markers, Murals & Mains Juneteenth Tour
Juneteenth recognizes the first day of freedom for enslaved Africans in Texas and commemorates the end of slavery in the United States as a whole.
The Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln freed enslaved people in Confederate states in 1863. It was a measure meant to punish the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War and did not cover enslaved Africans in border states.
It also failed to free those held in bondage in Texas. That would not come until June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, and issued General Order #3. Popular belief is that the enslaved Africans in Texas did not know about the Emancipation Proclamation until Granger's announcement.
However, some historians have disputed that claim. You can read more about why here in this story about how the United States came to celebrate Juneteenth.
In 2021, Juneteenth became a federal holiday. That effort was led by Texan Opal Lee, who shared with ABC13 last year how she first celebrated the holiday as a child growing up in Marshall before moving to Fort Worth at age 10.
But there was one story she kept quiet her whole life: the night when 500 white rioters forced her family out of their home and set it on fire.
"The people didn't want us. They started gathering. The paper said the police couldn't control the mob. My father came with a gun and police told them if he busted a cap they'd let the mob have us," Lee recalled. "They started throwing things at the house and when they left, they took out the furniture and burned it and burned the house."
It happened on June 19, 1939. Juneteenth.
But instead of dwelling on what happened, she worked to make sure people never forgot Juneteenth.
In 2016, when she was about to turn 90 years old, she had the idea to walk from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C. She was hoping somebody would "notice a little old lady in tennis shoes," she said, and notice they did.
In 2020, lawmakers introduced a resolution aiming to recognize the historical significance of the holiday.
Despite opposition, on June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.