When you think of Galveston Island, you imagine its long stretch of beach, delicious restaurants, and water activities. What you may not know is that Galveston Island is an integral part of African American history and home to many historic sites, landmarks, and monuments.
An island that’s full of rich history and endless vacation activities, Galveston Island is a coastal resort city with more than 37 miles of beaches. While you may have read our guide of the Top 10 Reasons to Visit Galveston and understand what the city has to offer, you may be surprised to find out how important the island was to the history of African Americans.
Learn more about the important history of African American heritage on your next trip to Galveston!
African American History At Galveston Island
Recent Addition – Absolute Equality Mural
The much-anticipated “Absolute Equality” mural, which illustrates the journey of Black Americans out of slavery into freedom, is the newest addition to Galveston’s rich history-focused attractions. The 5,000-square-foot mural, created by Houston-based Reginald C. Adams, was painted on the side of the Old Galveston Square building, located at 22nd and Strand in downtown Galveston. The massive art installation is an initiative of the Juneteenth Legacy Project, launched during Black History Month 2021 to help raise awareness about Juneteenth and contribute to a growing push to make Juneteenth a national holiday. Juneteenth, or June 19, marks the day in 1865 that Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3 in Galveston, which ordered the freedom of more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state of Texas – one of the last groups of slaves to be freed in the United States. Sam Collins, co-chair of the Juneteenth Legacy Project, said the mural is bigger than art. “To finally see it become a reality gives me hope of a nation that’s more honest and more united,” Collins said. “This mural will help us expand the narrative of the Juneteenth story.”
Reedy Chapel AME Church
With four of the fourteen churches on Galveston being the first in Texas to be organized for African Americans, the historic Reedy Chapel AME Church still stands strong today. As the first African Methodist Episcopal Church, not only is it architecturally beautiful, but Reedy Chapel is also significant for Juneteenth celebrations. On June 19th, 1865, African Americans marched from the county courthouse to the church – a tradition that is carried out to this day!
Texas’s First African American High School
Opened in 1885, Central High School is the first black high school in the state of Texas. In addition to being one of Galveston’s first, former students and the community celebrate the school to this day. While no longer a functioning High School, the building serves as a museum and home to the Old Central Cultural Center, which works to preserve the legacy of the school.
Juneteenth Monument at Ashton Villa
Each year on June 19th, the Galveston community comes together at the Juneteenth Monument to read General Order #3, which enforced the emancipation of slaves. The 9-foot tall bronze statue commemorates the holiday and depicts a man holding the order.
History of the African American Museum
Outside of this museum stands portraits of African Americans of Galveston, a stunning memorial of the people who played such an important role in the history of the island. The museum has an artifact room that has old photos of original black businesses, articles from newspapers about historic events, and memorabilia of Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world, who was from Galveston.
Historical Marker: The Site of the Osterman Building, Union Army of Texas Headquarters
With more than 200 historical markers on Galveston Island, this marker is placed on the land of which served as the HQ for the Union Army in the 1800s. It was here that General Order #3 was read and stated that all slaves in Texas were free.
If you’re looking to honor the history of African Americans by visiting, Galveston Island has wonderful interactive apps that will plan your entire trip for you. The self-guided American History tour will take you on 22 stops in under an hour and provides the history of each monument you’ll see.
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