Happy Juneteenth! On this day in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the General Order that informed slaves they were free was read in Galveston. The order was read in front of the beautiful Ashton Villa on Broadway, though for many many years visitors to this stately building were treated to ghost stories and tales of hurricane survival, but not told about the important role the location played in establishing freedom for all Americans. I’m glad that today we are celebrating Juneteenth and I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to educate ourselves about the history of equality in this country – and for those of us who love Galveston, about the role Galveston played in this history.
Nine-five years after the General Order freeing the slaves was read, in 1960, on the same island, a group of African American high school kids led by a sixteen-year-old boy named Kelton Sams succeeded, after many sit-ins, in being served burgers at a lunch counter, thus making an important contribution to ending segregation in the south. I was lucky to come across their story when I was doing research for the 1961 chapters of Storms of Malhado. I’m lucky too to feel that there is so much more to learn still about Galveston, and lucky to get to share my stories with visitors to the Island.