Opal Lee, then 89 years old, set out on a journey to Washington, D.C. from her home in Fort Worth in 2016 to lobby for the establishment of Juneteenth as a national holiday, which was accomplished in 2021. At addition, she has been running a little Juneteenth Museum in a house on Rosedale Street for the last almost 20 years. This house will also be used as a shooting setting for the movie “Miss Juneteenth,” which will be released in 2020.
This vision is moving closer to becoming a reality as plans move ahead for the National Juneteenth Museum, a project that will cost $70 million and has the goal of putting a shovel in the ground by the end of the year and opening in time for the Juneteenth festival in 2024.
The events that led up to the issuance of General Order No. 3 by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, informing the people of the state that “all slaves are free” in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation will be the subject of investigation at the 50,000 square foot museum that was designed by the architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group, also known as BIG. The museum was designed by BIG. After many months had passed, the 13th Amendment was finally enacted, and with it came the abolition of slavery in the last four border states that had been exempt from President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation.
The project, which is located at the intersection of Rosedale Street and Evans Avenue in Fort Worth, is an attempt to reinvigorate the neighbourhood that was separated by the I-35W freeway in the 1960s and slid into decline as a result of this division. A research that was carried out in 2019 by the data business MySidewalk revealed that the region has a typical family income of around $26,000 and that one third of the local population lives below the poverty line established by the federal government.
The new facility will have a business incubator that will encourage Black people to start their own businesses, a food hall that will feature culturally Black cuisine from local vendors, a theatre, and a performance space that is both flexible and adaptable.
In addition, Howard said that the project’s goal is to serve as an anchor for “a corridor for Black commerce,” bringing in other new companies to the neighbourhood. The city is already in the process of establishing the Evans & Rosedale Urban Village, which will cost a total of $13.2 million and will include townhouses and apartment buildings.
Private contributions from individuals, businesses, and foundations have been used to finance the museum up to this point; however, the museum is also looking for help from the government. The intention is to provide free entry, which will be made possible via various forms of fundraising as well as the revenue-generating features of the mixed-use complex. According to what Howard mentioned, the museum is originally estimating that its annual attendance would be 35,000, with a rise of 10% per year.
The design of the building will make use of materials such as strong wood and take inspiration from the gabled roofs and projecting porches that are common in the local architecture. This will be accomplished in partnership with local architects KAI, a company that is owned by a minority. “It will have a handmade feel to it,” said Douglass Alligood, the BIG partner in charge of the project, adding that he hoped the building would transmit “spiritual uplift” as Lee’s example did. “It will have a handcrafted character to it,” added Alligood.
“The national story is one we aim to concentrate on,” said Dione Sims, who is Lee’s granddaughter and the museum’s founding executive director. Although Galveston is the Texas place most identified with Juneteenth, “the national narrative is one we hope to focus on,” she added.
The museum will provide a comprehensive account of the abolition of slavery, highlighting key figures and organisations such as the Quakers, who were instrumental in guiding people to freedom in the northern United States; white and black abolitionist societies; the southern Underground Railroad that led to Mexico; and abolitionists such as Sam Houston, who, while serving as president of the Republic of Texas in 1837, passed a law that made it illegal to bring slaves into the state of Texas illegally.
In spite of the recent founding of institutions such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, as well as an effort by museums all over the world to better integrate Black history, Sims believes that there is still room for a national Juneteenth museum.