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2009 Freedom Days
Celebrate Juneteenth at Ashton Villa
by Doug Matthews
Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Photo: 2008 Juneteenth at Ashton Villa

The Al Edwards’ National Juneteenth USA Association will be celebrating the Juneteenth Emancipation Proclamation prayer vigil and breakfast at Galveston’s historic Ashton Villa on June 19.

“Freedom” is a cherished word to all humanity, particularly to those in bondage. On Jan. 1, 1863, as church bells tolled the news that President Lincoln had issued his promised Emancipation Proclamation, slaves and sympathizers in Boston, Washington, Richmond, New York and other cities danced in the streets, sang praises unto God and cried tears of joy.

In June 1865, 30 months after Lincoln had signed the proclamation, Gen. Gordon Granger, who had been placed in command of the federal occupation troops, arrived at Galveston Bay. He issued General Order No. 3 — Emancipation. And that was the birth of Juneteenth in Texas.

This year’s Al Edwards program will have the participation of Rear Adm. Manson Brown, commander of the 14th Coast Guard District in Honolulu and the only African-American admiral in the U.S. Coast Guard. Rear Adm. Brown will read excerpts of the “Emancipation Proclamation” and Granger’s Order No. 3, which began most significantly with: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

This June 19 will mark state Rep. Al Edwards’ 30th consecutive year at the historic Galveston Ashton Villa, which was constructed in 1859 and was once the headquarters for the Confederate Army and, later, the Union Army.

Edwards said: “This is a great day for Galveston, the state of Texas and the nation. I am honored and humbled to be able to celebrate Juneteenth these past 30 years on Galveston Island, where it all began. I started this celebration on Galveston in 1979 with the help of the late Rev. James Thomas, former Galveston City Council member.”

During Edwards’ first year as a legislator, he authored the most meaningful piece of legislation for the black community that had ever existed in the history of Texas or any other state. He wrote and lobbied the first official black holiday in the United States. After numerous setbacks and hard work, he and Rep. Douglas McLeod of Galveston pushed House Bill 1016 through the Texas House of Representatives and Senate in the last 24 hours of Texas’ 66th legislative session. At a memorable and historic ceremony on the grounds of Texas State Capitol in Austin on June 13, 1979, hundreds of supporters witnessed the bill being signed into law by Gov. William Clements.

This year’s proclamation prayer vigil and breakfast will begin at 8:30 a.m. at Ashton Villa, 2300 Broadway. I will serve as master of ceremonies, local ministers will provide several prayers for the city, state and nation, and there will be greetings from Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas and council members Linda Colbert and Tarris Woods.

The Galveston Historical Foundation Underground Youth Group will perform several songs. Edwards will name the 2009 Emancipator Award winners. Steve Greenberg, Landry’s vice president for government relations, will name the Landry’s Restaurant 2009 Juneteenth Award winner, and family members of the late Rev. James Thomas will present the 2009 James B. Thomas Humanitarian Award.

Native Galvestonian Tilman Fertitta, owner of Landry’s Restaurants Inc., will provide a complimentary breakfast to all of the attendees, a gesture he has made for the past six years.

Douglas Matthews is local coordinator for Galveston Juneteenth USA and chairman of Texas’ State Juneteenth Advisory Committee.


For more information, please contact:

State Representative Al Edwards, State Juneteenth Commission Chairman,

Juneteenth USA Founder and Chairman and Juneteenth Ashton Villa Celebration Founder

Contact Numbers: 713-741-8800 or 832-888-6437

Douglas Matthews, Galveston Juneteenth USA Local Galveston Coordinator

State Juneteenth Advisory Committee Chairman

Contact Number: 409-747-2912

For coverage of Freedom Days - Juneteenth to the Fourth of July - Click Here

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