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Emancipation Park In Third Ward


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Interesting article for Juneteenth. I had never even heard of this park.

A landmark for freedom

By DAVID ELLISON

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Nothing at Emancipation Park highlights its storied history: That freed slaves purchased the land 135 years ago to celebrate their freedom.

That for decades it hosted the area's only emancipation celebration, honoring June 19, 1865, the day Texas slaves learned of their freedom.

But more than an unknown past plagues the park. Most want to forget some parts of its present.

Homeless people occupy a few picnic tables during the day. Drug dealers and gang members rule at night.

But those are not the times Thelma Scott Bryant remembers. She first visited the park 96 years ago as a

5-year-old girl when her parents and other members of Houston's black community knew its significance well.

"The fact that it's called 'Emancipation,' everyone knows that it came after slavery," said Scott Bryant, 101. "And it was our first black park."

City officials and park supporters are now working to ensure history isn't forgotten. They want a historical designation from local, state and national officials and a marker to honor its legacy.

They also want to bring an organized Juneteenth celebration back to Emancipation Park.

''I consider this to be sacred ground

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Drive past it everyday. This park is set in such a perfect spot. As you walk around you have the city skyline as a backdrop. I urge Houstonian's to see this place that is before the encroaching development may block the downtown view. It would be great to locate photos of when it was new. Sadly the area has been plagued by crime element which hampered any new additions/maintenance to the park over the years. Very easy to find. :)

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I've seen it, but didn't know it had a name.

Here's the Google Map for it.

As you drive north bound on Dowling you see the park on the left there is a small white bldg (pool & locker room) it has Emancipation Park in big bold lettering above the entrance. I wish the city would have large high profile community events here. Then maybe people would notice work needs to be done. Even the nabe streets like Hutchins next door take you back to when the city was just booming. Many homes are 1940-50s era. The street is wide so as you drive you get good glimses of the whole park from all angles.

The white art deco bldg across the street is a nabe marker/icon.

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used to be THE PLACE as Dowling was the hub for blacks...suburbanization killed it and your right..the city never embraced it for events as Regional Parks such as Tom Bass and Adair became the parks for black functions

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used to be THE PLACE as Dowling was the hub for blacks...suburbanization killed it and your right..the city never embraced it for events as Regional Parks such as Tom Bass and Adair became the parks for black functions

Someone needs to go now and film a documentary in and around the park. If I were a film director I would film a movie on location at this park. There is something surreal about its presence. I just can't decribe it. It just seems iluminated to the point you wouldn't even need artificial lighting. Tables are spread out well and of course as I noted the city backdrop is excellent. I guess I'm just a little too much into preservation, etc. Seems like the fabric of this community is just disappearing more and more each day.

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  • 1 month later...

This Park for decades was the only Park open to African Americans in Houston. It was bought by free slaves as a meeting place for the cities blacks. The area along Dowling near the Park was at one time the most fashionable Black entertainment district in Houston. The Art Deco Bldg on corner from Park is the Old El Dorado Ballroom where entertainers such as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald would come to entertain in the 1930's until the late 1950's. The area west of the park heading toward the 288 Freeway was at one time the wealthiest Black neighborhood in Houston. The end of segregation in the 50's and 60's lead to the demolishing of dozens of stately mansions along Bastrop, Dowling and Live Oak St. You can still find a couple of these mansions barely standing. There are several African American Historical groups that have pictures showing the park in it's hey day. Including the huge Juneteenth parades that used to go down Dowling St.

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This Park for decades was the only Park open to African Americans in Houston. It was bought by free slaves as a meeting place for the cities blacks. The area along Dowling near the Park was at one time the most fashionable Black entertainment district in Houston. The Art Deco Bldg on corner from Park is the Old El Dorado Ballroom where entertainers such as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald would come to entertain in the 1930's until the late 1950's. The area west of the park heading toward the 288 Freeway was at one time the wealthiest Black neighborhood in Houston. The end of segregation in the 50's and 60's lead to the demolishing of dozens of stately mansions along Bastrop, Dowling and Live Oak St. You can still find a couple of these mansions barely standing. There are several African American Historical groups that have pictures showing the park in it's hey day. Including the huge Juneteenth parades that used to go down Dowling St.

These are the kind of stories that need be told now. As the older generations pass away so do the good old stories. The elders are walking history. If only these photos could be displayed somewhere for ALL Houstonians to see.

All it takes is some effort and imagination to create a film of the people and conversations that took place around the park. With today's technology the park could be filmed and background could be modified to appear in the past. Sounds crazy, nope. It can be done. The stories could focus on events that took place there and how it brought the community together. Where is Spike Lee or any big movie director when you need them? I'm serious people. Time is of the essence. Wish I had the $ I would try to have it done some how.

Every time I drive past I can't help but see the possibilities. Check it out people before developement changes the name or worse clears it away. Bulldozers are creeping quite close as we speak!

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These are the kind of stories that need be told now. As the older generations pass away so do the good old stories. The elders are walking history. If only these photos could be displayed somewhere for ALL Houstonians to see.

Considering Google's affection for HAIF, I'd be more than happy to host them here, if someone can get their hands on copies.

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I don't live in Houston, but based on what I've read about Rick Lowe's work in the Third Ward, it seems

that he would be an ideal person to contact to get something in motion or at least figure out who to contact to get things moving. For those who don't know about Rick Lowe, he has a project in the Third Ward that has received wide attention, was written up in the NY Times and other news outlets and was briefly discussed on this board. Someone, I can't remember who, maybe Nmain or Kinkaid, knew about the project and had good things to say about it.

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I don't live in Houston, but based on what I've read about Rick Lowe's work in the Third Ward, it seems

that he would be an ideal person to contact to get something in motion or at least figure out who to contact to get things moving. For those who don't know about Rick Lowe, he has a project in the Third Ward that has received wide attention, was written up in the NY Times and other news outlets and was briefly discussed on this board. Someone, I can't remember who, maybe Nmain or Kinkaid, knew about the project and had good things to say about it.

Project Row Houses

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  • 2 months later...
This Park for decades was the only Park open to African Americans in Houston. It was bought by free slaves as a meeting place for the cities blacks. The area along Dowling near the Park was at one time the most fashionable Black entertainment district in Houston. The Art Deco Bldg on corner from Park is the Old El Dorado Ballroom where entertainers such as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald would come to entertain in the 1930's until the late 1950's. The area west of the park heading toward the 288 Freeway was at one time the wealthiest Black neighborhood in Houston. The end of segregation in the 50's and 60's lead to the demolishing of dozens of stately mansions along Bastrop, Dowling and Live Oak St. You can still find a couple of these mansions barely standing. There are several African American Historical groups that have pictures showing the park in it's hey day. Including the huge Juneteenth parades that used to go down Dowling St.

At some point, J frank Dobie, the Texas folklorist, wrote about the celebration of junetenth at this park, in either the journal of the texfolklore society, or in one of his books. I remember reading several pages about this, in the stacks at berkley in the early 1970s. At the time, it was the only documentation of juneteenth and black studies people at berkley were promoting the holiday, and researching writings about juneteenth. I was told that Dobies work was the only academic work on the holiday at that time.

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At some point, J frank Dobie, the Texas folklorist, wrote about the celebration of junetenth at this park, in either the journal of the texfolklore society, or in one of his books. I remember reading several pages about this, in the stacks at berkley in the early 1970s. At the time, it was the only documentation of juneteenth and black studies people at berkley were promoting the holiday, and researching writings about juneteenth. I was told that Dobies work was the only academic work on the holiday at that time.

Now I wonder if this is the same Dobie that the High School in Sagemont area is named after?

When you say Berkeley I take it you mean University at Berkeley as in Northern Bay Area in California? I just think it a bit peculiar that they would have Texas historical items there? I'm just a bit miffed I guess. :mellow:

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Now I wonder if this is the same Dobie that the High School in Sagemont area is named after?

When you say Berkeley I take it you mean University at Berkeley as in Northern Bay Area in California? I just think it a bit peculiar that they would have Texas historical items there? I'm just a bit miffed I guess. :mellow:

I believe it is the same Dobie. University of California at Berkeley has copies of the journals in which Dobie's writing about Juneteenth appeared (as do many university libraries that subscribe to various journals), not the original Texas historical items. I believe that those are housed at a Texas University.

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I believe it is the same Dobie. University of California at Berkeley has copies of the journals in which Dobie's writing about Juneteenth appeared (as do many university libraries that subscribe to various journals), not the original Texas historical items. I believe that those are housed at a Texas University.

Does anyone know of a good link to learn more about Juneteenth? I often wondered of its true beginnings.

Actually, that would make a good topic starter.

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Now I wonder if this is the same Dobie that the High School in Sagemont area is named after?

When you say Berkeley I take it you mean University at Berkeley as in Northern Bay Area in California? I just think it a bit peculiar that they would have Texas historical items there? I'm just a bit miffed I guess. :mellow:

University of California at berkley is a major research library with many floors of books, or stacks, much like UT. If you see the name Dobie in texas, it is a reference to J Frank Dobie, who collected and edited texas folklore for about half a century. He wrote dozens of books, and rejuvenated the texas folklore society for decades, pumping out historical information on texas culture. His interviews included people who were alive in the second half of the nineteenth century. Some african studies scholars at berkely told me that they thought juneteenth would die out were it not for dobies writings, because no one else recorded the celebration of the event back in the 19th century. I do not know that to be true, but it is possible.

Most college and city libraries have some dobie books, because he was so prolific in the field of folklore and texas history. He recorded the legend of stampede mesa in the 1930s, which was the inspiration for the song "ghost riders in the sky".

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Thank you millenica,

I learn something new everyday. I wasn't even aware of the caption below:

From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond.

PS, I wish someone would do topic on the Buffalo Soldier beginnings. I think there is a museum here in Houston. Some don't even know B Marley had a hit song about them. I vaguely recall the lyrics.

Edited by Vertigo58
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  • The title was changed to Emancipation Park In Third Ward

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