Located in the heart of Third Ward in Houston, Emancipation Park stands proudly as a monument for all African Americans, reflecting the revitalization and resilience of its founders.
The park enables individuals to connect to and reflect on the culture of African Americans in their own community. It represents the sacrifices and commitment to remembrance for a very important time in history.
In 1872, the Rev. Jack Yates, of Antioch Baptist and Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, along with Richard Brock, Elias Dibble and Richard Allen, three other former slaves, collectively came up with $1,000 to buy ten acres of land so that all Black Houstonians could celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation on Juneteenth, in honor of when Texas slaves finally learned that they were free in 1865. They decided to name the land Emancipation Park.
From then on out, the community gathered at Emancipation Park every Juneteenth with festive celebrations that included music, food and dancing. The celebrations have carried on as a legacy for African Americans mark the day each year.
While the park is open to the public today, it was originally only opened on Juneteenth to serve as a site where Blacks could celebrate their freedom. Because of a lack of funds, the park couldn’t stay open year-round.
The City of Houston adopted the park in 1918. Soon after the adoption of the park, renovations began. For a while, Emancipation Park was the only park and swimming pool that African Americans could use since Texas was still a segregated state.
As years progressed, numerous improvements have been made to the park to preserve and protect what it represents. In 2017, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, the OST/Almeda Redevelopment Corridors, Emancipation Park Conservancy, and the Houston Parks and Recreation Department rededicated Emancipation Park after an extensive renovation process.
Park improvements included the construction of a new recreation center, the renovation of the existing community center and bathhouse, the construction of a new swimming pool, reconfigured parking options, an entry plaza, a splash pad, playground, walking trail, picnic areas, tennis courts, basketball courts and a ball field.
People from different walks of life visit Emancipation Park, cherishing all of the amenities and honoring historical information that the park has to offer. The park has served as an essential and memorable site to all residents in the Third Ward community and continues to honor the founders’ legacy.
KPRC 2 is partnering with Texas Southern University throughout the month of February for a celebration of Houston Black history. Students from TSU’s School of Communication and members of @KTSU_2 “The Voice” online team are providing 28 days of content for the @kprc2 Instagram account and the station’s other digital platforms. Posts and articles have been researched and produced exclusively by TSU students under the supervision of their School of Communication professors and the KPRC 2 digital team. An article will be published daily throughout February 2021 on click2houston.com/blackhistory.
About the author
Kennedi Robinson is an aspiring news broadcaster and plans to follow in the footsteps of Oprah Winfrey to eventually create her own television network. She is a junior and journalism major at Texas Southern University.