Home Art & Culture The Juneteenth National Museum takes shape in Fort Worth, Texas

The Juneteenth National Museum takes shape in Fort Worth, Texas

by YAR

In 2016, at age 89, Opal Lee walked from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, DC, to help make Juneteenth a federal holiday, which finally was in 2021. And for nearly 20 years, she has operated a modest Juneteenth Museum on property on Rosedale Street, which also served as a filming location for the 2020 movie “Miss Juneteenth.”

But Lee, now 95 and known as “Grandma of Juneteenth,” or more affectionately as “Ms. Opal”—wanted a more permanent institution that would commemorate the holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States.

That vision is edging closer to reality as plans move forward for the National Juneteenth Museum, a $70 million project that aims to put a shovel in the ground before the end of the year and open in time for the Juneteenth holiday in 2024.

The 50,000-square-foot museum, designed by architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group, or BIG, will explore the events that occurred on June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas, issued General Order No. 3 , telling the people of the state that, according to the Emancipation Proclamation, “all slaves are free.” The 13th Amendment, ratified months later, abolished slavery in the last four border states that had not been subject to President Abraham Lincoln’s order.

“Plans are beautiful. It’s off the chain,” Lee said in an interview. “Juneteenth means freedom to me. We want people to understand the past, we don’t want it to be diluted.”

The museum, which will have a significant educational component, will also help ensure the country doesn’t let slavery “happen again,” added Lee, who was nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize. “And it could, if we’re willing.” .

The project, at the corner of Rosedale Street and Evans Avenue in Fort Worth, seeks to revitalize the surrounding area, which went into decline in the 1960s after being divided by I-35W. A 2019 study by the data company MySidewalk showed that the area’s median household income is about $26,000 and that a third of residents live below the federal poverty level.

The development will include a business incubator to promote Black entrepreneurship, a food hall featuring culturally Black cuisine from local vendors, a flexible performance space, and a theater.

“It’s a neighborhood like many across the country that has been the victim of flight and abandonment,” said Jarred Howard, an executive with the project’s developer, Sable Brands, a marketing group. “For most of the last 30 years, the neighborhood has been downtrodden and destitute. This development will be a catalyst in the resurgence of its economic and cultural health.”

Howard added that the project hopes to anchor “a corridor for black trade,” drawing other new businesses to the area. The city is already developing a $13.2 million Evans & Rosedale Urban Village just north of the museum site, with apartments and townhouses.

“For decades, Juneteenth has been part of the fabric of our city,” Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker said in a statement in 2021, “and this museum is a welcome addition to its incredible legacy.”

Until now, the museum has been funded by private donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations; it is also seeking government support. The goal is to offer free admission, supported by the fundraising and revenue-generating aspects of the mixed-use development.

The museum initially projects an annual attendance of 35,000 with a 10 percent increase each year, Howard said.

The building’s design, in collaboration with local KAI Architects, a minority-owned firm, will use materials such as heavy wood and draw on local architecture of gabled roofs and overhanging porches. “It will have a handcrafted quality,” said Douglass Alligood, the BIG partner in charge of the project, adding that he hoped the building would convey “spiritual uplift” based on Lee’s example.

“He wanted to make sure the stories were told and he wanted to pay tribute to those whose backs we tripped over,” Alligood said. “It’s not about her, it’s about our ancestors.”

Alligood said the project had a particular resonance for him as a black architect. “This type of project in an African-American community focused on African-American culture is a unique opportunity in my career,” he said. “The Historic Southside was thriving before the highway cut through it and split it in half. I don’t think one building solves everything or changes history, but this gives me an opportunity to have information in a way that could be really meaningful.”

Although Galveston is the place in Texas most connected to Juneteenth, “we hope to focus on the national narrative,” said Dione Sims, Lee’s granddaughter and the museum’s founding executive director.

The museum will tell a broad story of emancipation, highlighting allies like the Quakers, who helped lead people to freedom in the North; black and white abolitionist societies; the Southern Underground Railroad to Mexico; and figures like Sam Houston, who, as president of the Republic of Texas in 1837, outlawed the illegal importation of slaves into Texas.

“It’s a holiday for everyone because everyone can find themselves in the Juneteenth story,” Sims said. “That is the mission and goal of the Juneteenth National Museum.”

Lee traveled two and a half miles each day in 2016 to symbolize the two and a half years between the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation and June 19, 1865, when that message reached Galveston, where black Texans were still enslaved.

In 2020, he started a Change.org petition that collected over 1.5 million signatures, which he presented to Congress. She was honored at the White House in 2021 when President Biden signed the bill designating the new holiday.

“You can’t talk too much about the history of the country,” he said. “You cannot talk too much about what is still present in our culture, in our national narrative, that is affecting so many lives today: systemic racism rooted in slavery. Liberation from slavery, or the emancipation of the human spirit, is what we are going to help elevate.”

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Comment

The Float