Juneteenth Art Quilt

A 21st century quilt celebrates a 150-year old tradition

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by Kathryn Siefker, Associate Curator of Exhibition Content

One hundred fifty years ago, General Gordon Granger gave the following decree in Galveston, Texas.

“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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

General Order #3, June 19, 1865

The announcement came at the end of a brutal civil war, two years after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. African American men, women, and children finally knew for certain that they were free from enslavement. This vibrant quilt by self-taught artist Renee Allen celebrates the jubilation of that moment as newly free men and women cheer and embrace in excitement. June 19th, the day of the announcement, became known as Juneteenth, a celebration that would spread from Texas to other states and beyond.

In 1979, Al Edwards, a Representative from Houston, introduced a bill to declare Juneteenth a Texas state holiday, campaigning for a day when "white, brown, and blacks can celebrate freedom together." When the legislature passed the bill into law in 1980, Texas became the first to mark emancipation as an official state holiday.

Renee Allen's Juneteenth quilt is part of a nationally traveling exhibition And Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversations, organized by the Women of Color Quilters Network in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

The exhibition is on view through August 30, 2015 at the Bullock Museum.

See this and other artifacts on the Interactive Texas Map

Juneteenth Art Quilt Artifact from Galveston
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