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Residents In Galveston, Texas, Celebrate Juneteenth

In 2021 President Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday. Many are hoping that as Black people share their culture, the country can unite.
Posted at 9:24 PM, Jun 20, 2022

The famous words of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. echo: "Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we're free at last." 

Many are hoping that as Black people share their culture, the country can unite.  

Allen Mack is the founder of The Austin Living History Foundation. 

"What I'd like to see is more diverse crowds of people of all different backgrounds, religions, you know, just come together and celebrate this day of freedom because freedom‘s not free," Mack said.

Juneteenth activists spent decades pushing to get an official holiday. Texas grabbed the reins in 1980 and became the first state to do so. Nearly 40 years later, in 2021 President Joe Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday, recognizing the end of slavery.  

College student Robert Ellis says his generation is ready to pick up the torch.  

"Juneteenth is more than just a celebration. We shouldn't look at it as just what happened, but what we can do moving forward," he said. "'Blessed are those who plant trees and shade they will never see.' That means you have to build a foundation not knowing if the next generation will carry on, but it's important that you plant that seed so that they have the opportunity." 

Avenue L Baptist Church is the oldest Black church in Texas. It was founded by five former enslaved people.  

As voices sing out in harmony and solidarity at the church, Pastor Donnell Johnson says this day is about history and healing. 

"We do know that this country is divided on multiple different levels, but it is important that we can celebrate these holidays together and united as one," he said.  

Although President Lincoln freed enslaved Black people by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, many slave owners in Texas kept this information a secret. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Soldiers were sent to Galveston to set things straight.

"I carry my ancestors — scratch that, they carry me. I can either use that as an excuse, or a tool, to achieve greatness. We may not be where we want to be today, but come tomorrow," said Ellis.