As a historian who wrote a book on the subject of Juneteenth and has spent decades giving Civil War tours of Galveston, I’ve been very interested in the recent announcements regarding proposed museums and monuments.
I would be disappointed, however, to see a national Juneteenth museum located anywhere but Galveston.
We don’t have the San Jacinto Monument in Houston or Dallas.
I agree that Juneteenth is an important national story, and for that reason, I’ve supported a national holiday for many years. But there’s a reason that formerly enslaved people chose to tie their celebration of emancipation to General Order No. 3 issued in Galveston in 1865, and that story needs to be told where it originated.
Galveston is “Ground Zero” for Juneteenth.
We know where the order was issued — the Osterman Building at 22nd Street and The Strand — and we know how it spread throughout the city and state following its issuance.
My hope is that community partners will come together and come up with a unified vision and plan for celebrating and interpreting the Juneteenth story.
From my perspective as a person who regularly leads tours that involve Juneteenth, I would like to see the primary monuments located near the site on The Strand where the Juneteenth order was issued.
I strongly support the concept of a National Juneteenth Museum, but I suspect that museum would not be the kind of dusty-case thing that many people of my generation associate with museums. This is likely to be something with lots of high-tech educational elements to engage visitors, with particular emphasis on the stories of formerly enslaved people.
I would hope that this museum, wherever it’s located in Galveston, would be somewhere that visitors and school groups could easily find and access it.
Finally, I would like to see the Juneteenth museum and monuments tied in to other community sites and historical resources.
The Freedom Walk project is a good start in this regard, and there are many sites in and around Galveston that could eventually be incorporated.
Galveston has always been a city that honored its history and looked toward the future. Now is the time for community leaders and people who care about history to come together and jointly find a way to tell the Juneteenth story to a nation eager to come to Galveston and hear it.