The Birthplace of Juneteenth: Galveston Offers Events, Tours, and Attractions to Celebrate Emancipation

As the birthplace of Juneteenth, Galveston offers visitors the chance to experience our country’s newest federal holiday in living color.

Galveston offers numerous historic sites and tours that showcase the origins of Juneteenth in the city, along with an annual Juneteenth festival, new special events, and activities. It is the ideal place to honor June 19, 1865, a momentous day when slavery was abolished in Texas and one of the last groups of enslaved people in the United States were freed.

Here’s a look at some highlights of the Juneteenth attractions and festivities taking place in Galveston this year:

(JUNE 15) Thursday Night Lights: The Story of Black High School Football in Texas

A special exhibit at The Bryan Museum, Thursday Night Lights brings to life the story of segregated football in Texas. The interactive exhibit features recollections from Prairie View Interscholastic League’s players and coaches, plus their personal belongings including uniforms and trophies. Displays will cover why and how the league came to be and highlight individuals involved through the years. The exhibit also shows the league’s social relevance, its place in Texas Black history, and its social impact across communities both Black and white during a racially repressive time. Thursday Night Lights
will remain at The Bryan Museum through July 2. Guests are invited to attend a panel discussion featuring Thursday Night Lights author Michael Hurd and former players from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on June 15.

(JUNE 15) Juneteenth Symposium – Sounds of Freedom

Join the NIA Cultural Center and other local community partners for an open dialogue honoring the history of Juneteenth in Galveston -- where it all began. Sounds of Freedom will highlight Galveston’s Black musical history and combine Juneteenth with Black Music Month. The event will include panel discussions and entertainment showcasing various genres including; gospel, jazz, rhythm and blues, classical music and hip-hop. It will take place on Thursday, June 15 at 1 p.m. at the Galveston Island Convention Center, 5600 Seawall Blvd.

(JUNE 16) Emancipation Gospel Celebration

Plan to head to The Grand 1894 Opera House on June 16 at 6 p.m. for the Emancipation Gospel Celebration. Performers include Gospel Grammy Award winner Reverend Smokie Norful, NAACP Image and Grammy Award nominee Zacardi Cortez, and Gospel diva Amber Bulluck, a winner from the fourth season of the television show Sunday Best.

(JUNE 17) Galveston Juneteenth Festival & Parade

Galveston’s annual Juneteenth Festival will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 17 at the McGuire Dent Recreational Center at Menard Park, 2222 28th St. This free event will feature a number of family-friendly activities, including live music, food vendors, a Black artist art walk exhibition, a youth basketball tournament, and more. The parade will begin at 26th Street and Avenue H, and will end at 41st Street and Avenue H. The picnic will immediately follow at Wright Cuney Park 718 41st

(JUNE 17) Juneteenth Civic Season Event: A Slice of History

Come celebrate Juneteenth with a Slice of History, co-sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute, University of Pennsylvania, Visit Galveston, and the Rosenberg Library. This free event features a DJ, trivia contest with door prizes, and a screening of the documentary, What’s the Story of Juneteenth? The event is designed for students ages 13-17 and takes place Saturday, June 17 from 3-6 p.m. at the Rosenberg Library, 2310 Sealy Ave. Registration is online at:

(JUNE 18) Juneteenth Sneaker Ball

Moody Gardens Convention Center is the place to be June 18 at 7 p.m. for the fun and fashionable Sneaker Ball event. Sponsored by the Galveston County of Greeks and Old Central Cultural Center, the event celebrates the legacy of Juneteenth with live music, food and fun. Patrons will be dressed in tuxedos and gowns with fashionable footwear – sneakers!

(JUNE 19) Reading of General Order No. 3 at Galveston’s Juneteenth Marker

Every year, Ashton Villa, 2328 Broadway Ave., is the site where the Galveston community commemorates the reading of General Order No. 3 in Texas. On the property grounds stands the city’s official Juneteenth statue and marker, commemorating the day in Galveston where the last enslaved people in Texas learned of their freedom. This year, the event will take place Saturday, June 19 at 10 a.m. The event is free to attend and honors the legacy of Rep. Al Edwards, the principal proponent of the Juneteenth Texas state holiday that was approved in 2007. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021.

(JUNE 19) Historic Reedy Chapel AME Emancipation March

This church was the last site on General Gordon Granger’s march through Galveston on June 19, 1865 to read General Order No. 3 and declare all enslaved people in Texas 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. This year’s event will take place at 6 p.m. on June 19. The march will begin at the Old Galveston Customs and Courthouse 1918 Postoffice St. and will end at the church located at 2013 Broadway Ave.

(JUNE 24) Galveston United Beach Fest

United Way is set to host a community event on June 24th from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, featuring a cornhole tournament and live music performances. The event will provide a platform for non-profit organizations, with United Way serving as the main contact point and occupying the volleyball court area. Musical entertainment will showcase eight bands, with 45-minute sets each, accompanied by a playlist curated by a DJ/sound crew. Food trucks will be present to provide concessions.

Ongoing Attractions and Tours

Blank Slate Monument

The NIA Cultural Center is presenting the Blank Slate Monument, an interactive sculpture created by artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, as a tribute to African American history and the ongoing struggle for racial justice. Displayed at the Rosenberg Library from April 5 to July 5, 2023, the monument challenges the traditional concept of Confederate monuments by deconstructing and exploring the African American experience before, during, and after the American Civil War. For more information about the artist and the sculpture, visit

Absolute Equality Mural

The “Absolute Equality” mural, which illustrates the journey of Black Americans out of slavery into freedom, was added to Galveston’s rich history-focused attractions in 2021. 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 to help raise awareness about Juneteenth. Juneteenth, or June 19, marks the day in 1865 that Union Army Major 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 enslaved people to be freed in the United States.

Freedom Walk Tours

The self-guided Freedom Walk guides participants through five historic sites that played a crucial role in Juneteenth including; Pier 21 and the Middle Passage, The Absolute Equality Mural and NIA Cultural Center, US Custom House, Reedy Chapel, 1859 Ashton Villa. By retracing the steps of the Union Soldiers on this momentous day in history, participants can gain a deeper understanding of the significance of Juneteenth in Galveston.

“And Still We Rise…” Exhibit at Ashton Villa

"And Still We Rise… Galveston’s Juneteenth Story" is located in the carriage house of the 1859 Ashton Villa and overseen by Galveston Historical Foundation’s African American Heritage Committee. The interactive exhibit introduces the context and consequences of General Order No. 3 from 1865 to the present, in a long journey toward absolute equality. It draws from recorded interviews and features numerous digital touchpoints allowing visitors to interact with collected photos, stories and research.

Juneteenth and Beyond Guided Tours

Juneteenth and Beyond is Galveston's very first African American guided history tour franchise. The guided tours offer pleasant and relaxing ways to experience our amazing heritage. Visit Galveston provides visitors with the opportunity to celebrate Galveston's rich, Black history beginning with the Juneteenth story. To book a tour and explore historical Galveston sites, visit

Galveston African American History Tour & App

Galveston’s African American History Tour, found on the Visit Galveston app, allows visitors to take a self-guided journey to learn about the island’s historically black institutions and monuments celebrating black accomplishments. As the birthplace of Juneteenth, Galveston Island holds a special place in the United States and African American history. The city is also home to the first historically black secondary school and public library in Texas, is the hometown of World Heavyweight Champ Jack Johnson, and features several historically black churches that were established as firsts for Texas. To access the tour, visitors can either download the Visit Galveston app on Android or Apple devices or visit the website at Use the search bar to type in “African American History Tour.”
The African American History Tour itinerary can be customized based on a person’s interests and time allocation.

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 go or call 1-888-GAL-ISLE.