GALVESTON, Texas – Galveston will hold its 155th annual Juneteenth celebration at historic Ashton Villa Friday.

What You Need To Know

  • Juneteenth is Friday, June 19

  • Organizers limiting crowds at Galveston ceremony

  • People are able to watch online

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked concerns the celebration wouldn’t be held as planned. Galveston Juneteenth coordinator Douglas Matthews said for a day as important as this, accommodations must be made.

“We’re gonna space it to where people can practice social distancing,” Matthews said. “Once we pass out 150 masks and hand sanitizer we [are] turning people away.”

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Matthews was Galveston’s assistant city manager just over 40 years ago when Texas state Rep. Al Edwards made his push to make Juneteenth a state holiday.

When his bill was signed by Gov. Bill Clements in 1979, Rep. Edwards made a trip down to Galveston.

He worked with Matthews to create a program to celebrate the holiday as his community did when he was young.

“As an African American community we decided to stop celebrating Juneteenth and start celebrating July the fourth,” Matthews said. “[Rep. Edwards] remembered the celebrations of Juneteenth with the red soda water and the barbeque and the watermelon.”

He brought that celebration back to historic Ashton Villa in Galveston, where on June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger announced to the last enslaved black Americans they’d been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation two years before.

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Every year since organizers have put together a program to celebrate the end of pre-Civil War era American slavery. 

“We’re trying to preserve the history of the Emancipation Proclamation and what Juneteenth really meant,” Matthews said.

The celebration in Galveston will go on with limited attendance and social distancing requirements. You can also watch online here.