I have attended Juneteenth meetings in Galveston, Texas City and Hitchcock. Each community has several things in common regarding Juneteenth celebrations, which include a parade, citywide festival and a program unique to their respective cities.
In 2011, I began a discussion about the sesquicentennial commemorations of the Civil War in Hitchcock. My hope was to host an annual discussion on the subject.
I also had a goal to hook the Juneteenth caboose to the sesquicentennial Civil War train that was moving throughout the country educating and informing people about the Civil War. The caboose has an important job and the Juneteenth story is very much a part of the Civil War story.
What does Galveston County have to offer that no other community in the country has to offer?
No. 1: Galveston is the birthplace of Juneteenth.
No. 2: Texas City has the Civil War-era Dahlgren Gun in the Texas City Museum that is a magnet for Civil War historians.
No. 3: Hitchcock has the Stringfellow Orchards’ story of a former Confederate soldier who after the Civil War built a business that employed former enslaved men. He also paid those men twice as much as other landowners.
Those former enslaved individuals were not looking for handouts, but an opportunity to earn wages, buy property, build homes and establish their communities. All of these things help to support the idea of a regional collaboration for Juneteenth 2015.
Nothing can compete with Galveston for being the place to be on June 19, 2015, but we also must recognize that Juneteenth 2015 is much larger than one day.
If we build it, they will come. This three-city tour is just one Juneteenth package we have to offer the world.
Who are they and who can we attract? We can attract historians, genealogists, families, teachers, students, parents and tourist looking not only for sites to see, but for an experience.
Yes, there are many more activities that could be listed. This was not intended to be an all-inclusive list.
It was simply a conversation starter to say to each city we can all work together to fill our local hotels, gas stations, increase tourism and tell the story of Juneteenth.
We do not need to have a countywide Juneteenth group to meet. We have enough meetings and enough groups already. With technology we simply need to have a representative from each area that would keep their websites and information updated so that we can help promote activities regionally.
When someone stops by Stringfellow Orchards in Hitchcock, I will be sure to encourage them to visit the Texas City Museum, the Settlement Community in Texas City, the Juneteenth Marker at 22nd and Strand in Galveston and the Lawmaker statue at Ashton Villa in Galveston.
Cabooses are rarely used on trains today. Hopefully, after 2015, our Juneteenth story will not be a footnote to history, but a welcome part of the history train that moves throughout our classrooms, living rooms and conversations that celebrate freedom and our shared American history.