Remembering Juneteenth – A New Walk

Remembering Juneteeth – A New Walk

This Juneteenth Walk to Freedom will travel to Galveston Island, along the upper Caribbean coast, to commemorate the 159th Anniversary of Juneteenth, with a walk from Galveston to Houston, June 20-24.

Galveston, once the home of pirates and revolutionaries who sought fame and fortunes on the backs of the enslaved, was the largest slave market west of New Orleans. Its history is woven into a tapestry of colonialism, slavery, and the slave trade.

Liberation of free and enslaved African Americans on the island didn’t arrive until June 19, 1865, two years after the Emancipation Act, when freedom was enforced by the arrival of US Colored Troops.

In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Emancipation National Historic Trail Act. “When passed by the Senate and enacted into law, it will result in the second trail in the United States that chronicles the experience of African Americans. Currently, the National Parks Service has only one National Historic Trail which centers on the African American experience. It is the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, which covers a 54-mile path between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, and which was named a National Historic Trail in 1966.

The Selma to Montgomery Trail tells an important story about a pivotal moment in the nation’s struggle transitioning from a history of segregation towards the Civil Rights Movement,” wrote Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who sponsored legislation to have the route named the Emancipation National Historic Trail Act. The proposed Emancipation NHT extends approximately 51 miles from the Osterman Building and Reedy Chapel in Galveston, Texas, along Texas State Highway 3 and Interstate Highway 45 North, to Freedmen’s Town, then to Independence Heights and Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas, following the migration route taken by newly freed slaves and other persons of African descent from the major 19th century seaport town of Galveston to the burgeoning community of Freedmen’s Town, located in the 4th Ward of Houston, Texas.

“I did not choose this path, it choose me, a calling, a reverberation, I have been responding to since 2018,” said Ken Johnston. “This walk will be one of the most challenging walks I have attempted to date due to the heat in June across Texas. I could have choosen another time of the year, but that would not have provided the same authentic sensory experience Freedom Seekers endured fleeing Galveston during one of the hottest seasons of the year. I plan to take the necessary precautions to be safe and start early in the day to limit the time spent in the direct sunlight.”

The goal of the Galveston to Houston Juneteenth Walk to Freedom initiative is to recall the hardships of slavery and the victory of freedom, at one of the oldest U.S. Middle Passage points of entry. By tracing the footsteps of liberated slaves from Galveston to Houston, I hope to activate through my public presentation of walking the deep power of memory these historic heritage trails hold.

Another goal of the walk is to meet and interview descendants whose ancestors may have fled Galveston in 1865 or who continued to live on the island despite the oppressive conditions that existed after emancipation was enforced. In addition, I hope to also talk to descendants living in the Houston area whose family may have a connection to Freedmen’s Town.

For more information, contact Ken Johnston at: