Galveston and Galveston County need to get serious about securing Juneteenth.
Our community played a loud, steady drumbeat in getting Juneteenth declared a national holiday. We can also be proud that thousands of visitors travel here to bathe themselves in the authentic history of this watershed moment in U.S. history.
It was here, nowhere else, that U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3, driving one of the final nails into the coffin of slavery in the United States.
Galveston and Galveston County have to take charge of the fact that we were among the final bastions of that awful blight and we should claim the historical ending of it, too.
But if we don’t come together soon, we are going to fumble this major opportunity for education, tourism and community pride.
The Baseball Hall of Fame isn’t in the town the game was invented, but where the game’s founder, Abner Doubleday, was born. But ask where our national pastime began, and millions of fingers point to the little town of central New York.
History has a way of getting away if you don’t fight to keep the narrative accurate.
Juneteenth is not exclusively a Black holiday, but one that also symbolizes our nation’s ability to shed its evils, to reform and to progress. Americans should be proud of this trait. Granted, at times our nation can be slow to change, but in the end, we do move forward.
The Juneteenth holiday always has been something in which locals could take part and take pride. It became something far more in June 2021 when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, adding it to a short list of national holidays.
It’s important to note that although many people worked for years to achieve that goal, it was Republican Sen. John Cornyn who carried much of the load in Washington.
So, the very fact Juneteenth joined the list of national holidays also symbolizes and should remind us that Americans can work together across racial and political lines to achieve good things.
Achieving national status also made Juneteenth a national franchise that many want to claim. As the holiday continues to grow on the national landscape, we are going to have to fight for this community’s rightful place at the head of the table.
To fail at that would be to disrespect those who came before us.
Right now in Fort Worth, millions of dollars are committed to build a Juneteenth museum. Interestingly, Fort Worth is the hometown of Opal Lee, honorary national co-chair for the Juneteenth Legacy Project.
Back home, where the event celebrated on Juneteenth actually happened, we are still wrestling over comparative nickels and dimes.
What’s missing here? Why are we so casual about what should historically be anchored in Galveston? Are we content with only a few small markers and displays?
Many people in our community care passionately about Juneteenth. What we need to do is put serious resources behind their efforts and the efforts of others.
In a community blessed with natural assets such as top-tier tourist destinations, businesses of tremendous success, and generational wealth, what keeps us from fully embracing the destiny bestowed on us on June 19, 1865?
If we use the time-honored measurement that you tend to place value where you put your money, one could easily conclude our community is not fully vested in planting the ownership flag of Juneteenth in Galveston.
Now is the time for us to step up and put Juneteenth unmistakably on the national map. Museum? Maybe? Broader and deeper investments in Juneteenth educational and permanent displays? Absolutely.
We don’t even have a permanent home for Juneteenth supporters.
Let’s not let this important moment in time slip by and wake up one day wondering why another city is considered the national center for all things Juneteenth.
• Leonard Woolsey