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Jun 22, 2015

Texas Bishop Joins 150th Juneteenth Celebration in Galveston


Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was first issued on September 22, 1862, when blacks slaves in Texas officially learned they were free and that slavery was at an end in Texas and the United States. This Juneteenth, Bishop Andy Doyle joined other dignitaries in Galveston, to commemorate the anniversary of that announcement made by Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger on a Galveston harbor pier 150 years ago.  

Granger’s words this Juneteenth were read by Stephen Duncan: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with the proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

The event Friday at Ashton Villa, a historic home and visitors center, featured U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Reps. Randy Weber and Sheila Jackson Lee. Also present were Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston and Bishop Doyle, as well as many local dignitaries.

“Today, we’re here to celebrate and treasure the heritage and the identity and the rich contributions of African Americans in this part of Texas and all across the country,” Cornyn said. 

“Juneteenth reminds us of the power we have to meet the challenges that communities of color and so many others continue to face in the pursuit of justice and equality.  As we celebrate the jubilee, let us resolve to end the indignity and violence of bigotry, discrimination, and hatred in all its forms," Jackson Lee said in her remarks.

“Out of the bleakness of slavery, African Americans have made invaluable contributions to our great democracy, shaping this nation’s cultural, scientific and economic prosperity for generations.  On this historic anniversary, let us remember that in our beloved country, the beauty is in the mix – and that we must continue to work together to honor that truth,” she added.

Bishop Doyle highlighted the work of St. Augustine’s, Grace and Trinity Episcopal Churches ministry of reconciliation work in Galveston to the hundreds of people gathered at Ashton Villa. He noted the work of St. Vincent’s House “where we undertake to make, with you our beloved community, a better Galveston.” Bishop Doyle said that while “We have come a long way in 150 years, we have a long way to go … We must pray to change America, but we must also pray to be changed for the sake of America so we may better reflect God’s family, God’s peaceful and peace-filled family, God’s loving and forgiving family, God’s reconciling family…

“In the wake of Ferguson, Baltimore, Cleveland, Texas and Charleston, we have a lot to pray for,” he said and offered the following:

“Heavenly father, creator of all that we are and all that we have, elevate the character of this nation. In this time of disruption, disrupt us for what is true and what is right. Disrupt us, that we may move and act for the cause of freedom. We honor the courage of the long line of heroes who brought Juneteenth to a reality 150 years ago. We honor the courage of the men and women who make up the long line of heroes who have labored to bring emancipation into reality these 150 years. Let their lives, their story, disrupt us and give us courage. Let their non violence in the face of violence, their love in the face of hate, their hope in the face of despair disrupt our ways and remind us on this day that violence, hate and despair, though they infect our nation, shall not have the last word. The Emancipation Proclamation is call to action to continue the journey to freedom for all black Americans and all of God’s people. Every American – women, Latinos, Asian Americans - has been affected by this word of hope. This is our time, we write our story, and we will leave our legacy. So disrupt us, that we may see our purpose to build a better nation, a better state, a better Galveston. Disrupt us that we may discard cynicism. Disrupt us that we may face boldly the sin or racism that is yet before us. Give us the moral imagination, the sense of urgency to improve our criminal justice system, to roll back poverty, to make opportunities for all people to make a living wage, to protect democracy with the right to vote restored fully for all people, to make sure the voice of every person is heard. So on this 150th anniversary of the news of the Emancipation Proclamation reaching these shores, let our voice sound out as it did on that day, let our actions be clear, and let our legacy be true that a second 150 years need not pass before racism, classism and violence are shed and liberty and freedom for all people are once again our nation’s heart’s song. Amen.”

Many slaves were freed much later than when the Emancipation Proclamation was first issued and only when news of the Proclamation reached their towns. The last of those slaves lived in the South and were freed on June 19, 1865 after Granger read the Proclamation in Galveston. This date eventually became known as "Juneteenth." Texas led the way in making Juneteenth an official state holiday in 1980 and today, nearly all states recognize the holiday.