Juneteenth is the annual celebration of emancipation. It’s celebrated in June as news of slavery’s end hadn’t reached Texas and much of the Confederate South until June of 1865. Places to hosts such celebrations were scarce in Texas, so a gathering of prominent Black leaders pooled their resources to create Houston’s Emancipation Park.
Richard Brock, Elias Dibble, Richard Allen, and Jack Yates raised $800, a high sum at the time, to buy 10 acres of land to use for Juneteenth gatherings. For quite some time in the late 1800s, that’s all the land was used for but things changed after the turn of the century. For much of the early part of the century, it was the only park and swimming pool that Black families could use in the segregated state.
As the years rolled on, the park’s quality began to erode tremendously so Houston ended celebrations in 2007. Several state and local organizations collaborated on ways to revive the park. The effort to do was spearheaded by Black architect Teri Canada of the Perkins Will firm.
Over the weekend, a $33.6 million renovation announced last summer was finalized and the park was rededicated for Juneteenth and regular use.
OST/Almeda Corridors Redevelopment Authority, The Emancipation Park Conservancy, The Friends of Emancipation Park, and the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department. ESPA of Houston, and M2L Associates of Houston all partnered to bring the park back to life. It now features a performance space, an entry plaza explaining the park’s historic roots, an expanded children’s playground and much more.
It is the oldest park in Houston and in the state of Texas.