While most Americans are familiar with the Fourth of July and its significance as it relates to the United States receiving their independence from Great Britain, most aren’t aware that freedom (at that time) wasn’t for all. Actually, it would be nearly another 100 years before slavery would be abolished in the state of Texas.
So where did the name Juneteenth come from you ask? Well, let’s start from the beginning. In the early 1860s former President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which only freed slaves in certain states excluding Texas. This would all change years later on June 19, 1865 with federal troops descending in Galveston to take control of the state and ensure that all slaves were freed. This day would officially mark the end of slavery in the Lone Star State and be named “Juneteenth,” which is short for June 19.
The annual celebration is recognized by minority communities throughout the country in many forms, including parades, family barbecues, supporting black-owned businesses, visiting exhibits or museums, historical re-enactments along with other traditions and activities that honor African American achievements and accomplishments.
In honor of Juneteenth, Houston First Corporation is rolling out their “Blues and More” series at Avenida Houston where visitors can enjoy live jazz, blues, and R&B music during the lunch or dinner period through the entire weekend.
Friday, June 18 – Ronnie Coleman Jr. (Smooth Jazz), 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Julie Johnson (R&B / Contemporary Jazz), 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, June 19 – Werner Richmond (Classic R&B / Blues), 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Downtown 4 (Jazz / R&B / Blues), 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 20 – Chad Brawley & Friends (Inspirational), 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
You too can participate in this American holiday by attending some of the other Houston area events happening below. Be sure to check in with each establishment for their hours of operation.
- Miller Outdoor Theater – Both virtual and in person, one of Houston’s popular outdoor venues will be hosting their annual blues and creole festival “A Gulf Coast Juneteenth’’ featuring Bobby Rush.
- Emancipation Park – Held during the entire month of June, this year’s virtual celebration #WeAreJuneteenth, which will include stories of triumph, panel discussions surrounding topics specific to African American experiences, businesses and organization spotlights, entertainment, and recognition of leaders and history makers pushing the movement forward.
- Buffalo Soldiers National Museum – Honoring African Americans in the military via performing and visual arts, educational programming, and exhibitions, the museum will be hosting their second annual Juneteenth celebration by partnering with BLCK Market. The market provides a place for small businesses and entrepreneurs to showcase their quality brands and products to hundreds of consumers.
- The Heritage Society at Sam Houston Park – Visitors can celebrate this year’s Juneteenth by partaking in guided tours of the Jack Yates House, Kellum-Noble House, and the Fourth Ward Cottage located in Sam Houston Park. During the tour, attendees will learn about each home’s significance in Houston’s African American history.
- DeLUXE Theater – Located in the heart of Fifth Ward, the historical theater and landmark will host a black arts market that will feature live music, food, and of course, art.
- Juneteenth Jubilee Dinner – Current Top Chef contestant and Houstonian Dawn Burrell, along with three fellow castmates, will host a five-course dinner celebrating Juneteenth. The dinner will take place at the Bisong Art Gallery. The four chefs will prepare dishes using ingredients from Texas ranchers, farmers, and fishermen, and highlight Black-owned businesses through the dinner’s wine and alcohol pairings.
- Houston Museum of African American Culture – This unique museum promotes the vibrancy of African American culture and art forms. You can purchase local paintings, traditional garbs, and more.
- The African American Library at Gregory School – Previously the first Houston public school to serve African American students, this revitalized library promotes and celebrates Houston’s rich African American history.