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Juneteenth mural helps enlighten, educate in the community where it began, beyond

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Posted at 11:13 AM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 19:19:21-04

In the place where Juneteenth was born, people are telling the story of the holiday’s origins in a unique and visual way.

“Maya Angelou has a great quote, ‘history despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again,’" said Samuel Collins III.

There is power in paint, to not only create a picture but perspective.

“I would come through this intersection and see people walking by the Juneteenth historical marker and not always reading it and thought that wall would help us tell a story. A picture is worth a thousand words," Collins said as he stood near the corner of 22nd and Strand in Galveston, Texas.

Collins hopes perspective is what people will find when they reach that part of his city, which is situated on an island on the state’s Gulf Coast.

“One of the goals is to tell the full story and teach the full story and history," said Collins.

The local historian with the Juneteenth Legacy Project helped lead the charge to create a massive mural in honor of Juneteenth.

The mural is located in the exact place that on June 19th, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Major General Gordon Granger, who arrived in Galveston with Union soldiers, many of whom were Black, signed "General Order Number Three," which let the slaves of Texas know they were free. The day is now recognized as Juneteenth.

“Slavery was a very dark stain on America, but it was real, a real part of who we are as a country, and so while it’s hard to talk about, it’s important that we can put a face on that history, so it is a conversation," said Reginald C. Adams.

Adams hopes the conversation can happen by taking in everything he and his team have painted on the wall.

The mural includes images of the first Africans to arrive in the Americas, through the more than 200 years of slavery to the present day and beyond.

“I would describe this mural really as an outdoor classroom. There's a thousand years of history," Adams said.

Using the Uncover Everything app, people can scan the mural and be linked to more content about the art and what it stands for. A webcam lets the entire country experience the display.

Last year, The Harris Poll found almost half of Americans admitted to not knowing much about Juneteenth.

It’s numbers like that which drive Collins to continue to tell its story. Inside the building with the mural on the side, he's helped create a gallery of art and artifacts.

“We all live in this American house. We’re all on the deed. Citizens of today are on the deed of America’s house. This house has some problems. It has bad wiring, bad plumbing, foundation problems. We have the responsibility as current owners of the house to fix it," Collins said.

The name of the mural is “Absolute Equality," words written in the order to free the slaves there back in 1865.

While art, like the mural, helps enlighten and educate on what equality truly means, for it to truly be effective, its meaning must be carried beyond there.

“I’m not interested in going back in the past. I’m interested in what we are going to do today to do the work to make the house better for the future," Collins said.