Museum to celebrate Juneteenth on Saturday

Parade, community event to mark annual festivity in Waxahachie

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
A flyer promoting Waxahachie's community Juneteenth parade to be held on Saturday morning starting at Lee Penn Park. The Ellis County African American Museum and Library will host festivities starting at 11 a.m.

A Texas state holiday that is now a national holiday will be celebrated in Waxahachie and across the nation on Saturday.

Residents in Waxahachie will mark Juneteenth, which celebrates the abolishment of slavery in America. The Ellis County African American Hall of Fame Museum and Library will host a Juneteenth “Call to Freedom” event for all Ellis County residents from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Activities include a youth art gallery, silent auction, health checkups, COVID-19 registration, voter registration, car show, food vendors, museum tours and memberships, children's games, and music celebrating Black culture.

An addition, the annual Juneteenth Parade will take place beginning at 9:45 a.m. at Lee Penn Park. The parade will depart at 10:30 a.m. and will follow Getzendaner Street to the museum at 441 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

This year’s Juneteenth festivities will be slightly smaller than in previous years.

Betty Square Coleman, president of the Waxahachie NAACP Chapter and also a member of the city Planning and Zoning Commission, said at the end of Tuesday night’s meeting that the presence of COVID-19 restrictions earlier in the year made it too difficult to plan for a larger celebration in advance.

Juneteenth is an official state holiday in Texas. The day, which had been celebrated by Texas African-Americans for decades previous, was declared a state holiday in 1980.

The holiday has recently exploded in national stature and is today recognized in 47 states and the District of Columbia. A bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday passed both houses of Congress this week and was signed into law.

On June 19, 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued and more than two months after the Civil War ended, Union general Gordon Granger landed in Galveston and issued a proclamation that all slaves were free. This included the equality of personal rights and rights of property. The freed slaves were advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages. The message of freedom reached approximately 250,000 slaves in Texas.

According to the online Texas Handbook, Juneteenth celebrations declined in the early 1960s when the civil rights movement was taking place. Over time the state holiday revitalized in focusing on the interest of cultural heritage.

“Representative Al Edwards, a Democrat from Houston, introduced a bill calling for Juneteenth to become a state holiday,” according to the Texas Handbook. In 1979, Governor William P. Clements Jr. signed it into law, and the first state-sponsored Juneteenth celebration took place the following year.