In June 1939 the Flake family, originally from Marshall, Texas bought a house in the 900 block East Annie Street in Fort Worth, Texas. On June 19, 1939, Juneteenth, a mob numbering near 500 destroyed their home. Why? They were black and had been audacious enough to move into a mostly white area of the north Texas city.
That day should have been a day of celebration for the Flake family. Seventy-four years earlier, in the island city of Galveston, Union troops, many of them being black men serving with the United States Colored Troops, brought news of freedom to the enslaved people of Texas. It was a momentous occasion and word of freedom spread from the coast of Texas and spider webbed its way out and across the countryside to at least 250,000 people held in bondage in the state. General Order Number 3 contained the phrase “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.” But the freedmen and freedwomen and their descendants did not receive absolute equality in reality. The rebels and their descendants, using violence, intimidation and law, placed a number of barriers and hurdles between them and this term, “absolute equality.” But having endured for hundreds of years in slavery, the freed people and their descendants persevered and fought for years more as the state and nation continued to evolve towards this noble goal.
Eighty-two years after the Juneteenth riot and destruction of the Flake family’s home in Fort Worth, and 156 years after the first Juneteenth, a woman named Opal Lee was present in Washington D.C. when President Joe Biden signed the act passed by Congress making Juneteenth a national holiday. She was 94 years old. She had been twelve when her house had been destroyed on Juneteenth 1939.
This episode is an attempt to share the story of Juneteenth and the power of perseverance.
The Texas History Lessons Theme song, Walking Through History, was written and recorded by Derrick McClendon. Listen to his new album, Interstate Daydreamer! Available everywhere you find good music. Thank you Derrick! Twitter: @dmclendonmusic
The song at the end of the episode is Prayers to a Lesser God by Texas History Lessons spotlight artist, Payton Matous. Check out his new EP and new single everywhere that music is available.
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