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Juneteenth, Emancipation, Ashton Villa, and Charles Criner's Art

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

"Juneteenth" (2005) by Charles Criner. Mixed media on paper. This is the first Juneteenth poster printed for Criner by Heidelberg.

"Juneteenth" (2005) by Charles Criner. Mixed media on paper. This is the first Juneteenth poster printed for Criner by Heidelberg.

What Is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth has been an official Texas holiday since January 1, 1980. It celebrates the day when the abolition of slavery finally began to be enforced in Texas—June 19, 1865. This celebration has spread to states outside of Texas as well, but it is not yet an official holiday everywhere. Fourteen of our 50 states do not recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday.

During the Civil Rights era, celebrations on June 19th waned slightly as the movement's focus shifted toward African Americans gaining more rights as citizens in the post-slavery age. Today, Juneteenth is celebrated in Texas and many other places across the United States with gatherings, parades, picnics, and other activities in good-spirited fun.

The Emancipation Process

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but it could not be enforced in places that were still embroiled in the Civil War. Certain states and territories were also exempted from the proclamation, as it only applied to the Confederate States that had not yet come under the Union flag.

While the proclamation was difficult to enforce, freed blacks were invited to join the Union's troops. Many did, which probably helped shorten the war between the states. Union state slaveholders were exempted, as were slaveholders in New Orleans, other nearby parishes, and some territories that had yet to become states. Many dates led up to the freedom for all of the slaves in the expanding U.S. and her territories. Assigning just one date to emancipation is hard to do.

Brief Timeline of Slaves' Freedom in the U.S.

  • April 7, 1862: The United States and Britain signed the Lyons-Seward Treaty, which helped to suppress the trading of slaves.
  • September 22, 1862: The preliminary announcement of what would become the Emancipation Proclamation was first cited.
  • January 1, 1863: The Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, went into effect.
  • November 1, 1864: The abolition of slavery officially went into effect in the State of Maryland.
  • Early 1865: The State of Tennessee officially abolished slavery.
  • June 19, 1865: Slaves in Texas first learned of their freedom.
  • December 6, 1865: The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified by a sufficient number of states to go into effect.
  • Later in December of 1865: The 13th Amendment became fully enforced. This was the month when slaves all across the United States finally gained their freedom. The state in which they resided no longer mattered.

What Is Ashton Villa?

Ashton Villa is a historic home in Galveston, Texas, that was one of the first brick structures ever erected in the state. It was the home to a successful businessman named Colonel James Moreau Brown and his family. It was constructed using slave labor in addition to the expertise of European artisans.

During the Civil War, Ashton Villa sometimes served as the headquarters of the Confederate Army, while at other times, the Union Army was headquartered there. Ironically (but perhaps fittingly), this home, which was built with slave labor and served as a Confederate Stronghold, was also the place where Texas slaves found out about their freedom.

On June 19, 1865, from the wrought-iron veranda of the three-story Victoria and Italian-style home, Union Army General Gordon Granger read aloud from a document titled “General Order Number 3” announcing that all slaves in Texas were now free.

Ashton Villa is now a part of the Galveston Historical Foundation and also serves as a home to the Galveston Island Visitor Center. It is a recorded Texas Landmark and is also on the National Register of Historic Places. It is open to the public for tours and special events.

Ashton Villa, a historic home in Galveston, was the location at which Texas slaves' freedom was announced in 1865.

Ashton Villa, a historic home in Galveston, was the location at which Texas slaves' freedom was announced in 1865.

Who Is Charles Criner?

Charles Criner is an American artist who creates many original lithographs and also paints, sketches, and draws. He was born in a small town in East Texas in 1945, and he currently resides in Houston.

My husband and I have known Criner for a good number of years. My husband was on the board of directors at the Printing Museum in Houston when Criner became the resident artist.

Much thought and artistic talent go into each of Criner's artworks. You can meet him at the Printing Museum in Houston (1324 W Clay St, Houston, Texas 77019).

Charles Criner stands by a litho stone in the Printing Museum in Houston, Texas.

Charles Criner stands by a litho stone in the Printing Museum in Houston, Texas.

His Early Years

Criner shared the following story with me. From his early days, while still living at home, his artistic talents were apparent. Instead of spending time laboring in the fields along with most of the residents in the small Texas town of Athens where he was born, he was busy creating art images.

He celebrated Juneteenth with the rest of his family because his grandmother demanded it. Schools were not yet teaching the significance of that date, and he did not learn about it at home. Criner's memories of the celebration include enjoying a picnic day, eating a Bar-B-Q meal, and drinking red soda water. Sometimes, dollars were tight. One bottle of red soda water would be shared and passing it around the table where he and each of his seven other siblings would take sips and tinge their teeth, lips, and tongues red.

Criner did not know the enormous significance of June 19th back in those early days. He would learn about that later when he was in Galveston, Texas, and a friend pointed Ashton Villa out to him.

“Man Coming Out of the Water” by Charles Criner

“Man Coming Out of the Water” by Charles Criner

Discovering Ashton Villa

In the mid-1960s, when Criner was attending Texas Southern University, he was made aware of the significance of the red brick building at 2328 Boardway Avenue J in Galveston. What he learned that day would have a meaningful impact on his art from then onward.

The piece above, titled “Man Coming Out of the Water,” represents Criner’s love of fishing. He has spent many of his leisure hours in Galveston and elsewhere pursuing that favorite pastime. His friend pointed out Ashton Villa to him on one of their fishing trips as they passed Broadway at 23rd Street. Broadway is one of the main boulevard streets leading into Galveston and the Gulf of Mexico's waters.

This photo is of a Heidelberg press from 1965.

This photo is of a Heidelberg press from 1965.

Heidelberg Printing Presses

Criner was at the Printing Museum when Heidelberg Inc., headquartered in Germany, came to Houston to give a presentation of their world-renowned printing presses. Their history dates back to their conception in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1850. The quality of their presses continued to be improved upon through the years. Finally, they were considered superior to just about all of their competitors and claimed almost 50 percent of the market worldwide.

In 2005, representatives of that company came to Houston and set up some demonstration presses in the Museum of Printing History. One interested company from Japan wanted to know if they could reproduce fine art prints on their presses. That is when they approached Criner asking permission to replicate some of his art. Permission was granted, and ultimately millions of dollars of printing presses were sold to Japanese interests as a result of that successful demonstration.

Criner's Juneteenth Posters

To express their gratitude to Criner for the part that his art played in those press sales, representatives from Heidelberg agreed to print 2,500 posters for him free of charge each year. Heidelberg has kept that promise since 2006, and Criner has released free Juneteenth posters annually since then.

The photo at the top of this page was the very first image printed for Criner, and it is titled “Juneteenth.” It was created in 2005 and is a mixed media piece on paper. Criner has given the posters out free of charge to students taking tours of the museum as well as to other interested parties. The posters help publicize the importance and significance of Juneteenth and the freedom of slaves in Texas. His art reflects the black experience from his perspective and is an intentional attempt to keep Juneteenth history alive.

On all of the Criner Juneteenth posters, credit is given to the following entities:

"Poster sponsored by The Museum of Printing History and the Rutherford B.H.Yates Museum, Houston, Texas. Printed compliments of HEIDELBERG USA INC. KENNESAW, GEORGIA."

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peggy Woods

Comments

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 20, 2020:

Hi C E Clark,

Thank you for the compliment about learning new things by reading my articles. The march towards emancipation and freedom for blacks in our country is a long one. They are still fighting for equality today in many areas.

We are very cautious about the coronavirus because cases in Texas and elsewhere are rising. I hope that you stay safe and well, also.

C E Clark from North Texas on June 20, 2020:

Moved here from Western Colorado and arrived here June 15, 1983. I was here only a few months when I learned about Juneteenth, before the end of the year.

I learned more from your great article. One of the main things I like about your articles is that invariably I learn new things.

There is talk about making Juneteenth a national holiday. I can think of no day more deserving, and it's been a long time coming.

With all that's going on now, and with the Coronavirus infections rising, especially in Texas, I hope you and your husband are taking every precaution to stay safe.

Posting this excellent article to AH & FB.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 16, 2020:

Hi Denise,

Many people do not realize the significance of Juneteenth. It is getting some attention in the news because of Mr.Trump's initial scheduling of a rally on that day which he postponed a day after some encouragement to do so. I am glad you enjoyed reading this.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on June 15, 2020:

Beautiful. Information everyone should know about. Thanks.

Blessings,

Denise

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 24, 2020:

Hi Aurelio,

Glad that you now know more about Juneteenth as well as art produced by Charles Criner.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on April 22, 2020:

I was not aware of Juneteenth or Charles Criner, who has very distinctive art that I like. Thanks for the introduction.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 19, 2020:

Hi justmesuzanne,

Juneteenth has a double meaning for you because of your parents getting married on that date. Thanks for your comment on the beauty of Charles Criner's art.

justmesuzanne from Texas on March 19, 2020:

My parents "jumped the broom" on Juneteenth many decades ago. Lovely article, and what gorgeous art! :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 08, 2020:

Hi John,

Thanks for being the first to leave a comment. It is understandable that you might not have heard about Juneteenth since you live in Australia. It is a big celebration here in Texas and has spread out to other states as well. It does mark an important time in our history.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on March 08, 2020:

Peggy, thank you for adding to my knowledge immensely. I had never heard of Juneteenth before, but what an important date it is. Thank you also for introducing me to the art of such a talented artist in Charles Criner. I love his work.

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