This self-guided experience is meant to enhance your visit and expand your understanding of this topic. We invite you to write, discuss and share your thoughts, take pictures, and share them with us on social media. Include the hashtag #MyNURFC for the chance to be featured on our channels.
As you explore the museum, think about how this history affects you today. Juneteenth is a culmination and celebration of African American triumph. African Americans have always led the way in their fight for freedom, equality and justice.
We pursue inclusive freedom by promoting social justice for all, building on the principles of the Underground Railroad.
While you are welcome to take photos during your visit, please remember that flash photography is not permitted.
Major General Gordon Granger and 1,800 Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 18, 1865. The next day, June 19, 1865, he issued General Order, No. 3, declaring that the last remaining enslaved people in the United States were finally free – 71 days after the Civil War ended and 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
General Order, No. 3 solidified emancipation in the United States and made way for 250,000 people still enslaved to finally gain their freedom. June 19, 1865, offered a first to African Americans—a definitive date when freedom was gained.
Beginning in 1866 newly freed Blacks Texans held parades, gatherings in parks, barbecues, and gave speeches in remembrance of their liberation. These celebrations were referred to as Jubilee Day or Emancipation Day. By the 1890s “Juneteenth” was used.
Juneteenth became more than just a celebration of freedom. It became a way for families to reunite; a way for African Americans to organize politically, economically and spiritually; a way to educate and inspire future generation to come; and a way to show their pride, strength and resolve. The spirit and tradition of Juneteenth spread beyond the borders of Texas, and other states began recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday. From its humble beginnings in Texas, Juneteenth is now celebrated in cities and towns throughout the country.
By 1900 the festivities had grown to include baseball games, horse races, street fairs, rodeos, railroad excursions, and formal balls. Two trends emerged with these early celebrations. First, the oldest of the surviving former enslaved were often given a place of honor. Secondly, Black Texans initially used these gatherings to locate missing family members and soon they became staging areas for family reunions. Juneteenth had unofficially become Texas Emancipation Day and was sponsored by Black churches and civic organizations. By that point, it was so prominent that politicians, including various Texas governors, addressed the largest gatherings which were upwards of 5,000 people. Juneteenth had surpassed the Fourth of July as the biggest holiday of the year for African Americans in Texas.
QUESTION: Do you and your family have Juneteenth traditions that you enjoy?
Head Quarters District of Texas
Galveston Texas June 19th 1865
General Order, No. 3
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 personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.
The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
By order of Major General Granger F.W. Emery
Major A.A. Genl.
The Juneteenth flag was created by Ben Haith, the founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation, and illustrator Lisa Jeanne Graf in 1997.
The symbols and colors all have meaning:
Star - represents Texas and the freedom of African Americans in all 50 states
Burst of light - represents a new beginning for African Americans
The arc - connecting the blue and red stripes represents a new horizon for African Americans
Blue and red - represents the American flag and African Americans as American citizens. They symbolize liberty and justice for all.
At the age of 12 in Sycamore Park, a predominantly white neighborhood in Fort Worth, TX, Opal Lee and her family experienced a traumatic event. Approximately 500 white supremacists destroyed their home. No one was arrested and justice was denied. This event made her realize that racism was a barrier to true freedom for African Americans, so she dedicated her life to teaching and activism.
In 2016, Lee championed the cause to make Juneteenth a national holiday by walking 2 ½ miles a day from Fort Worth, TX to Washington, D.C. Her efforts gained her the nickname “grandmother of Juneteenth,” and on June 18 2021, she sat in the White House and watched President Joe Biden sign the bill that made Juneteenth a federal holiday. That simple swipe of the pen would never have been possible without the dedication, determination and passion from people like Opal Lee.
Today, at least 41 states either recognize or observe Juneteenth as a state holiday. This holiday is an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Opal Lee and all the other freedom heroes that came before her by recommitting to bring an end systemic racism and all other forms of discrimination.
Find the Underground Railroad map. If you were enslaved in Galveston, TX, which route would you use to escape?
What tactics were used by freedom seekers, conductors and abolitionists?
Are today’s activists still using some of these same tactics to fight for social justice and inclusive freedom?
Get inside Henry’s “Box.” Try to imagine what it must have been like for Henry spending 27 hours closed inside this box. What are you willing to do for your freedom, and more importantly, what are you willing to do to make sure others share in the same freedom and equality you have?
Look inside the safe house. If you were a conductor, where would you hide freedom seekers?
Find the panel with the words “The Emancipation Proclamation.” Describe what you see in the picture.
How does Aminah celebrate her African American heritage through RagGonNon?
Find the Ancestral Map panel. Where did Aminah’s journey start?
Find the Sunday Best panel. What do the large hands represent?
What stories would you tell if you created your own RagGonNon?
These images came to Tom Feelings’ mind when he thought about the history of enslavement. What images come to your mind when you think about today’s social justice movements?
What’s happening to the mother and daughter in the top right image?
What emotions do you see on the face of the woman in the middle image?
What do you think conditions were like inside this slave pen?
Why do you think the older males were chained up the entire time on the second floor?
Walk back outside of the slave pen and look toward the upper right section, just below the siding. What word is carved in the wood?
Do you believe there are similarities between this slave pen and modern-day prisons or jails? Watch Angola for Life on YouTube.
Find John W. Anderson’s probate inventory just outside the slave pen. What stands out about this list when you read their names?
Little Africa: Look out over the balcony or through the windows at the Ohio River. This river was the borderland between slave states like Kentucky and free states like Ohio. It was referred to as “the River Jordan” during the Underground Railroad because it was an important landmark for enslaved people on their journey to freedom.
For freedom seekers, crossing that river meant the possibility of a lifetime of freedom. It was only a possibility because fugitive slave laws allowed slave owners to recapture their property in free states. However, in Cincinnati, freedom seekers had allies called Conductors.
These conductors risked their lives to help freedom seekers escape. Some of these conductors in Cincinnati used to be enslaved themselves. Conductors like John Hatfield and William Casey would sneak out at night, get in a flat-bottom boat called a skiff, row across the river to the Kentucky shore and wait for freedom seekers.
When they picked up freedom seekers, they would bring them to this area where the museum is located known as Little Africa. It was the first African American community in Cincinnati. Today, you are standing above Little Africa, the community that became a gateway to freedom for so many people.
Today, there are individuals in your community that are trying to escape horrible conditions. Some of them are trying to escape hunger, bullying, abuse, illiteracy, violence, poverty and much more. When they begin their journey to escape these conditions, they all must cross their own “River Jordan.”
QUESTION: How can you become a conductor for those individuals?
As you’re exploring the exhibit, take pictures of all the images you feel represent Juneteenth – freedom, family, community, cooperation, perseverance, pride, strength, triumph, resistance, etc.
- Find the image of the slave ship Brookes. How were individuals packed aboard this slave ship?
- What song do you hear in the background?
- When you look up, how does it make you feel?
Frederick Douglass: What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? (1852):
- Read Douglass’ speech. How did he feel about the 4th of July?
- Do you consider Juneteenth to be more significant for African Americans than the 4th of July? Why or why not?
- Why wasn’t the Emancipation Proclamation celebrated as the official end of slavery?
- Was Harriet Tubman a spy for the Union Army?
- What were some of the historical accomplishments African Americans achieved during the Reconstruction time period?
- Does the 13th Amendment allow slavery to exist as a form of punishment?
- The KKK has murdered thousands of American citizens over the past 155 years. Why are they still allowed to exist in this country?
- What factors lead to the end of Reconstruction?
- What do you believe Dr. King meant when he said, “It may be our mission to save the soul of America”?
- How are the Underground Railroad and all these freedom movements related?
- The United Nations added forced marriage as a form of slavery, bringing the global number enslaved people to 40.3 million. What are the other 5 forms of slavery?
- Are any of these forms of slavery in your community?
- What can you do to combat slavery in your community?
Opal Lee’s call to action was making Juneteenth a federal holiday. She accomplished her goal through courage, cooperation and perseverance. Her story and actions are an inspiration to us all.
QUESTION: What is your call to action?
How You Can Help
Join a growing network of modern-day abolitionists following in the footsteps of great freedom heroes like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and more. While the fight looks different today, you, too, can make a difference by supporting our work.
Learn more at freedomcenter.org/member
Large or small, private or corporate – your support enables us to continue our work teaching, encouraging and inspiring the public using the lessons of the Underground Railroad in the modern fight for freedom.
Learn more at freedomcenter.org/donate
We invite you to become a modern-day freedom conductor by leading tours, interpreting exhibits, helping with genealogy research, event greeting and more. Opportunities for a variety of interests and schedules. Your skills and talents have the power to make a positive impact.
Learn more at freedomcenter.org/volunteer