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In celebration of Juneteenth, Galveston Island Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is debuting its Freedom Walk Tour— an immersive experience that takes visitors on the march of freedom to the sites of emancipation where Major General Gordon Granger read the historic General Order No. 3.
The history of Juneteenth comes alive with the download of the Freedom Walk Challenge app on either android or apple devices or by visiting the website. Participants in the challenge will win a commemorative Freedom Walk keepsake. The tour and challenge are available year-round in an effort to continue the conversation and education of Galveston’s rich African American History. For details on the tour and how to take the challenge, visit here.
Stop 1: Middle Passage Marker, Texas Seaport Museum, Pier 21
This marker commemorates enslaved Africans in Galveston during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, as well as the millions of captive Africans who perished during the transatlantic slave trade known as the Middle Passage. Galveston was one of the 48 known ports of entry in the U.S. for enslaved Africans who survived the transatlantic crossing. The marker is housed by the Galveston Historical Foundation and will be installed at the Texas Seaport Port Museum.
Stop 2: Absolute Equality Mural, Old Galveston Square building, 22nd and Strand
The much-anticipated “Absolute Equality” mural, which illustrates the journey of Black Americans out of slavery into freedom, is the newest addition to Galveston’s rich history-focused attractions. The 5,000-square-foot mural, created by Houston-based Reginald C. Adams, was painted on the side of the Old Galveston Square building, located at 22nd and Strand in downtown Galveston. The massive art installation is an initiative of the Juneteenth Legacy Project, launched during Black History Month 2021 to help raise awareness about Juneteenth and contribute to a growing push to make Juneteenth a national holiday.
Juneteenth, or June 19, marks the day in 1865 that Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3 in Galveston, which ordered the freedom of more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state of Texas – one of the last groups of slaves to be freed in the United States. Sam Collins, the co-chair of the Juneteenth Legacy Project, said the mural is bigger than art. “To finally see it become a reality gives me hope of a nation that’s more honest and more united,” Collins said. “This mural will help us expand the narrative of the Juneteenth story.” For more info, visit www.juneteenthlegacyproject.com.
Stop 3: The US Customs House
The Customs House was one of the primary buildings that army troops occupied. It was the first building in Galveston designed by an architect and the first non-military building constructed by the Federal Government in Texas. A copy of General Order No. 3 was undoubtedly posted near the front door where a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation is displayed today.
The building may also have another important connection to Juneteenth. The Customs House had a functioning printing press and was used to print Amnesty Oaths that Confederate soldiers were required to sign to get their rights restored. One of the provisions in those oaths was that the signers would respect the laws of the United States including the proclamation that emancipated the slaves. The press may also have been used to print copies of General Order No. 3 that were then posted around Galveston and used by soldiers spreading throughout Texas to bring word of emancipation.
After leaving the Customs House, we suspect the soldiers marched to the Old Courthouse Square.
Stop 4: Reedy Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2013 Broadway
This church was the last site along General Gordon Granger’s march through Galveston on June 19, 1865 to read General Order No. 3 and declare all slaves in Texas as free. It was also the site of early Juneteenth celebrations in which freed slaves marched from the county courthouse to the church, an annual tradition that is carried out to this day as part of the island’s Juneteenth celebrations.
In addition to its Juneteenth significance, this church was the first African Methodist Episcopal Church in Texas. In 1848, the Methodist Episcopal Church South established an African American church for its slaves. The trustees purchased land at 20th and Broadway to build a church. A fire destroyed it in 1885. In 1886, the church re-organized and a new building was completed in 1888. The building is a combination of gothic revival architecture and regional craftsmanship. Renowned church member Norris Wright Cuney laid the church’s masonry.
Stop #5: Juneteenth Marker at Ashton Villa, 2328 Broadway
Every year, Ashton Villa is the site where the Galveston community commemorates the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas. On the property grounds stands the city’s official Juneteenth statue and marker, commemorating the day (June 19, 1865) in Galveston where the last slaves in Texas, (the most remote of slave states) learned of their freedom. On that day, Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived on the island to command troops sent to enforce the emancipation of the slaves.
Galveston Island’s rich African American history goes well beyond celebrating Emancipation. From being home to the first historically African American secondary school and public library in Texas to being the hometown of World Heavyweight Champ Jack Johnson, Galveston has long fought to preserve the knowledge of African American accomplishments and heritage on the island, holding dear the many historic sites and monuments that live on to tell the story. The African American History tour is an in-depth exploration of the monuments, sites and changemakers of Galveston. For more information on the tour, click here.
About Galveston Island
Galveston Island is a historic beach town located on the Gulf of Mexico just 50 miles from Houston. The island is best known as a vacation destination, offering 32 miles of beaches, a variety of family attractions, Texas’ premier cruise port and one of the largest and well-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the country, including several National Historic Landmarks. Galveston Island is the birthplace of Juneteenth and home to popular amusements such as, Moody Gardens and Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark, as well as a variety of museums and recreational activities from surfing to birding. For more information on Galveston Island visit www.visitgalveston.com or call 1-888-GAL-ISLE.