Thousands Celebrate Historic Texas African American History Memorial at State Capitol

ABOVE: The centerpiece of the memorial is a tribute to the emancipation of slaves in Texas.

This past Saturday, thousands of Texans gathered on the South Lawn of the Texas Capitol to celebrate history, as the Texas African American History Memorial was unveiled.

The event saw many dignitaries and elected officials such as Governor Greg Abbott; outgoing State Senator Rodney Ellis; Texas Legislative Black Caucus Chair Helen Giddings; Texas African American History Memorial Foundation Chairman Bill Jones; various State Representatives; and Houston Mayor and former member of the Texas House Sylvester Turner, who helped secure funding for the memorial.

“Today we come together to proudly honor the African Americans who helped to grow Texas from the bounty of our land, from the sweat of their toil, from the aspirations and the passions of their dreams,” said Governor Abbott. “May this monument be a reminder of the profound way that Texas has been advanced by African Americans? And may that torch of freedom atop that monument light the way for all of us as we continue to make Texas the beacon of opportunity for everyone in this state from every race and every color.”

The 27-foot high, 32-foot wide monument depicts Juneteenth – June 19, 1865 – the day that General Gordon Granger and hundreds of Union troops arrived in Galveston, TX to declare the freedom of slaves in the United States through the Emancipation Proclamation. The memorial also depicts major social, political and cultural icons from the state of Texas, along with highlighting the cattle, cotton and oil industries and role that Black Texans had in advancing those industries.

“This has not been an easy journey,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “And I’m not referring to the raising of money or to the construction of this monument. I am talking about the history of African Americans of the state of Texas and where we are today.”

Ed Dwight, the Denver-based sculptor who created and built the monument, also attended the dedication. Texas African American History Memorial Foundation Chairman Bill Jones said Dwight was given the task to create a memorial that was “historically accurate, aesthetically pleasing and with emotional impact.”

“He has done all three,” Jones said of Dwight. “And he has done so beautifully. What he has created will walk you through Texas history, including the contributions of Africans and African Americans to this state’s rich past.”

During the monument’s dedication, Rep. Giddings read a letter from President George W. Bush who had approved the funding for the African American history monument in 1993 while serving as Governor of Texas.

“Throughout our nation’s history, the talents of African Americans from all walks of life have strengthened our country,” Representative Giddings read from President Bush’s letter. “I pray that this place of remembrance will inspire all who visit to go further and to get there faster.”

The Texas African American History Memorial Foundation (the Foundation) is committed solely to the development and construction of the Texas African American History Memorial (the Memorial) on the State Capitol grounds. The Foundation has raised $2.9 million for the construction, maintenance, and dedication of the Memorial. Ten percent of the cost of the Memorial will be retained for future maintenance and repair.

The Foundation has received the support of Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker Joe Straus, and the entire membership of the Texas Preservation Board. The Foundation also has the support of the Legislative Black Caucus of Texas.

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