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The inaugural Emancipation Bike Ride on June 14 followed a 60-mile route from the Port of Galveston to Emancipation Park in Houston. The ride celebrated Juneteenth as well as the successful passage of a bill, sponsored by Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee, to name the route “The Emancipation Trail.” This is only the second National Historic Trail in the US that honors Black history.
The bike ride was led by Harris County Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Houston City Council Member Leticia Plummer, and District Judge Chuck Silverman. Houston civic leader and bicycle advocate, Michael Skelly, organized the event.
Robin Stallings rode on behalf of BikeTexas. BikeHouston and Houston Parks Board were represented, along with many other Houston organizations.
Juneteenth celebrates the day in 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger, accompanied by black and white federal troops, disembarked at the Port of Galveston and read President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Enslaved Texans finally learned that they were free, nearly two and a half years after the proclamation had been issued by Lincoln.
Along the Emancipation Trail route, a historian, a genealogist, a minister, a mayor told us about some of the history of landmarks we passed. Commissioner Ellis read the proclamation aloud to us at the oldest AME church in the country. Historians told us stories at the pier in Galveston and at a Freedman’s home about halfway through.
Finally, Congresswoman Jackson Lee greeted us at Emancipation Park. She talked about the trail designation legislation and the significance of Juneteenth, and then on a somber note, discussed the tragic murders of George Floyd, Ahmad Arbrey and the systemic racism that still plagues our country, two hundred years after the Civil War.
We thank Congresswoman Jackson Lee for her hard work in getting this historic route officially recognized, and look forward to many generations of Texans and others seeing these historic sites firsthand as they ride the Emancipation Trail.