GALVESTON - With the stroke of a pen, President Joe Biden has now made Juneteenth a national holiday. It was in Galveston where union soldiers first arrived to set Texas slaves free.
156 years ago men now painted on a mural in Galveston weren’t just images on the side of a building. They were there in person delivering that special message to slaves, which is now not just Texas history but an American holiday. It’s been a long time coming. So the celebrations are non-stop now that Juneteenth is a federal holiday.
"I think it's awesome. I think it should be. Definitely. I thought it was a national holiday so I feel very misinformed that it was not," says Houston area residents Rei, Journey & Mychael Morris.
"The National Juneteenth Observance Foundation has been working to get Juneteenth as a national holiday since 1994," explains Historian Sam Collins III who works with the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation. Even before that, Texas State Representative Al Edwards who died last year, fought for Juneteenth, getting it passed as a Texas holiday in 1979.
"We have three kids and I told them God took him because he wanted him to celebrate with Him in Heaven but I know they are really celebrating and jubilant," smiles Lana Edwards who was married to Rep. Edwards for 25 years.
"He was considered the father of Juneteenth because he not only preserved the holiday but he made us realize the importance of that particular day," says Galveston Juneteenth Coordinator Doug Matthews.
"This day is important to healing the cracks in the foundation of America as we try to improve this American house," adds Collins who was the brains behind the massive mural marking the Juneteenth history at the corner of Kempner and Strand. It’s interactive and is on the very corner on the Strand where on June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived to tell slaves in Texas they were finally free, even though the Emancipation Proclamation actually gave them their freedom two and a half years earlier. "Along with him (Granger) were the United States colored troops which ended up being 75% of the forces that came into Texas. So we need to tell that story. It’s not in our history books in elementary, junior high, high school or college but it’s time for us to correct the narrative," says Collins.
Not only there at the mural but also across Galveston, there will be a number of Juneteenth celebrations beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.
"We will now celebrate freedom days here in Galveston, which Our Mayor has already declared from June 19th to July 4th are freedom days and we’re going to celebrate that freedom," smiles Collins.