‘A celebration of freedom’: Galveston’s Reedy Chapel A.M.E. Church historical site of original Juneteenth celebration

GALVESTON, Texas – More than 150 years ago, the old courthouse in Galveston on Post Office Street is where enslaved people learned they were free. Down the street is the site of the first documented celebration of Juneteenth.

Diane Henderson-Moore has spent the last seven decades attending Reedy Chapel A.M.E. Church on Broadway Street.

“This is the home— the basis, the church is very important,” she said.

A historical landmark— June 19, 1865, near the church the emancipation proclamation was read to enslaved people.

“They read several orders and one was this third-order which basically said, general order number 3 that the emancipation proclamation was now being enforced,” Henderson-Moore said.

She said those freed immediately walked to this church.

“They came here from the courthouse to praise God,” she said.

Making the church the site of the first Juneteenth celebration.

“When you come in and you look at the history and the artifacts and the architecture here,” Reverend Lernette Patterson said. “It’s just breathtaking.”

While crews spent the last two years revitalizing this piece of history, Reverend Patterson worked alongside Henderson-Moore to paint a new perspective on Juneteenth.

“I want people to know that we embrace the historical component of Reedy and that we are here for you, humanity, we embrace unity,” Reverend Patterson said.

After two years of a pandemic and a racial reckoning— Sunday the church’s doors will reopen to the public.

“That God will just open the doors on that day, on the Emancipation Day, that we can share unity and love, and I just can’t I can’t describe it,” she said.

Celebrations kick off at 11 a.m. on Sunday, starting with a Juneteenth service at Reedy Chapel, followed by a community block party from 1 to 6 p.m., and then there will be a reenactment march from the courthouse with African drums, singing, and dancing.

“A celebration of freedom is important but you don’t stop there,” Henderson-Moore said.

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