During Juneteenth celebrations you will hear stories about the Emancipation Proclamation and President Abraham Lincoln. You will hear that Lincoln freed enslaved people in 1863, but there’s much more to the story.
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free enslaved people in Union states that allowed slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to states in rebellion that were part of the Confederate States of America. This wasn’t Lincoln’s first attempt to help free enslaved people.
In 1841, while a young attorney, Abraham Lincoln helped Nance Legins-Costley win her freedom. By winning her freedom, her children were then also free. She had two daughters and a young son, William Costley.
William Costley grew up and eventually joined the Union Army during the Civil War. Costley was one of the members of the United States Colored Troops that arrived in Galveston in June of 1865 delivering the message of freedom to the people of Texas.
Author Carl Adams will be in Galveston on Friday for a presentation and book signing at the Nia Cultural Center Juneteenth Legacy Project Headquarters, 2217 Strand St. Suite 101 in Galveston. The program starts at 5 p.m., and Carl’s presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m.
The event is free, but it will be limited to 50 people. We have a limited number of books that will be available for purchase and for Carl to sign. Please come out and hear the rest of the story about the first enslaved person freed by Abraham Lincoln and how that event is connected to the Galveston Juneteenth story.
Carl and I are part of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation Education Committee. The committee was formed in 1994 by the late Dr. Ronald Myers and others. The committee has long been the leading voice nationally pushing for a national Juneteenth holiday.
Last month, the Grandmother of Juneteenth, Opal Lee; Steve Williams, president of the committee; and the 2020 National Miss Juneteenth Saniya Gay were here to promote the push for a national Juneteenth holiday. The committee was key in getting the bills passed in the Senate and the House.
Getting the national holiday on the calendar is important, but it’s also important to educate the public about the rest of the story. Carl’s book, “Trials of Nance” will help expand the narrative around American history and Juneteenth.
This will be Carl’s first trip to Galveston. He will work with me to get William Costley more recognized on the island. The first enslaved male freed by Abraham Lincoln helped to bring the message of freedom to Texas. It’s time to tell this story.
This year, we have a great deal to celebrate. A new national holiday and now a national platform to tell the Juneteenth story. Come meet Carl Adams and welcome him to Galveston Island — the birthplace of Juneteenth. Happy Juneteenth!
Editor’s note: President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Act into law after this column was submitted.