Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Today marks the anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in the state of Texas. Although Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in 1863, it wasn't until 2-1/2 years later, after General Lee's surrender April 9, 1865, that enough federal troops arrived in Texas to enforce the proclamation. In effect, Texas' slaves received their freedom on June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, announcing the news that the war was over and the slaves were free.

For the past week, here in Galveston, there have been small celebratory daytime activities commemorating that day, which became known as Juneteenth. In fact, there is a large sculpture of a black man holding high a piece of paper on the lawn at one of Galveston's historic Broadway mansions, Ashton Villa, but interestingly enough, there is no inscription and no sign telling visitors what it is. A tour of the mansion does not include that information, either. I asked a black woman in the Galveston History Center across the street from Ashton Villa what the significance of the statue was, and she didn't know. I then asked a docent in Ashton Villa and was told it's titled "The Orator"* and that it commemorates the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston June 19, 1865. I failed to ask why no signage.

It was a long time until blacks started actually getting any type of equal status to whites, of course. I can remember when the elementary school I attended was integrated.

Now, at least blacks can be wage slaves like us white folk.

*You know, now that I have thought about it for a while, I'm no longer certain that's the title of that statue (which I'm going to post a picture of if I get my camera connected before the day is out), but I am certain that the man at Ashton Villa told me that, although the story goes that the Emancipation Proclamation was read from the balcony of Ashton Villa - and thus the statue on the lawn there - it actually was read from one of the buildings downtown on The Strand. Galveston has a very colorful history, and that's a very minor detail. But one can only wonder how much of Galveston's legend is misremembered. Oh well, as my attorney cousin once described his own motto: Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.

I think that's the Bush Administration's motto, too.

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