Last week, Texas’ important Emancipation Park, located in Houston’s historic Third Ward neighborhood, re-opened after a three-year renovation project.

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As the nation’s first park commemorating the end of slavery, the new recreation center features a fully-equipped gym and an official-sized basketball court and outdoor facilities, complete with a baseball diamond, picnic area, tennis court and swimming pool.

The site will also host the annual Juneteenth celebration, a time of remembrance for African-Americans across the country, especially in Texas.

What is Juneteenth?

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order which declared that all slaves in the Confederate States were free.

Since the Confederates were vested in keeping the slave economy intact, the announcement did not reach many of the affected areas until shortly after the conclusion of hostilities in the Civil War in April 1865.

On June 19, 1865, U.S. Major General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston and read the Proclamation. The newly-freed slaves greeted the news with jubilation, and the occasion has been commemorated with celebrations every year since.

During the late 1970s, Texas state legislator Al Edwards strove to have Juneteenth declared a state holiday.

His proposal became law on January 1, 1980.

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Houston Juneteenth Celebrations

The annual celebration includes a parade through Downtown Houston, as well as festivities at the newly-opened Emancipation Park. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will lead the re-dedication ceremony. An outdoor concert at Miller Outdoor Theater will feature blues, gospel, and zyedco artists, including bluesman Milton Hopkins and gospel singer Mavis Staples.

For more information, visit Juneteenth Fest’s website.

Houston’s Emancipation Park re-opens for Juneteenth – a historical date for Texas and the entire nation AP photo/Randy Squires