By the time a Houston-based activist arrived on the scene yesterday, all that was left of a United Daughters of the Confederacy statue of Confederate commander Dick Dowling was a broken, jackhammered pedestal (above) and a desecrated dedication stone (below).
The Dowling statue was one of two monuments that were removed in Houston this week.
After gatherings at the site of the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent in 2017, Houston mayor Sylvester Turner formed a commission to study the repurposing of the city’s Confederate monuments. Earlier that year, he had already announced that the name of Dowling St., the main artery of one of Houston’s historically black neighborhoods, would be changed to Emancipation Ave.
But after sweeping public outcry in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis and Virginia governor Ralph Northam’s announcement that the Lee statue in Richmond would be removed, mayor Turner decided that the time was right to remove these hateful and offensive tributes to the men who defended racist violence and genocide. (While mayor Turner was able to move forward with the removal this week, yesterday a judge barred Governor Northam from removing the Lee statue indefinitely.)
Today, Houston residents will be able to observe Emancipation Day — Juneteenth — without the long dark shadow of these monuments cast over their celebration.
Unfortunately, due to the ongoing global health crisis, there will be no public gathering today at Houston’s Emancipation Park (below).
The park, established by black business leaders who purchased the land in 1872, was the site of some of the earliest celebrations of Juneteenth.
Thanks to the heightened interest in the holiday this year, many Americans have learned for the first time that Juneteenth can trace its origins to Galveston and Houston, the last cities in America to receive news of the Confederacy’s demise and black Americans’ newfound liberation from bondage.
Given the current public discourse on racism in this country, Juneteenth observances have particular significance and urgency this year.
May we all take this day to reflect on how we can become better American ancestors.
Happy Juneteenth from the Parzen family in Houston, Texas.
Please consider donating to and/or sharing our GoFundMe campaign to repurpose a newly built Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas where Tracie grew up and where half the population is black.