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Juneteenth Celebration Spans Three Days

Sienna Miller

Sienna Miller keeps a photograph of her great, great, great grandmother, an African-American woman named Harriet Vaughn Sims. In the photograph, a bouquet of flowers covers her left hand, Miller says that’s because three of her fingers were cut off as a way to brand her.

“There are some true, hard realities of what the slaves had to go through in order for us to all be where we are today,” Miller said. “We’re still on that path of journey, a journey of healing and becoming free both physically and mentally.”

Miller is now the Chair of the Abilene Juneteenth Celebration. She’s organizing a three-day event to remember June 19, 1865, the day that news that slavery had ended reached Galveston, Texas, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. Slaves in this part of the country learned they were free.

“Even though we mark the celebration, we’re going to talk about the truth of the matter because it’s a very painful, very ugly history,” Miller said.  

Miller said the annual celebration is really all about teaching the younger generations.

Harriet Vaughn Sims
Harriet Vaughn Sims

"Our ancestors are long gone but yet it’s important to maintain our history,” Miller said. “When we understand our history, we understand our present and what to do going forward.”

A health fair, business expo and gospel fest is this weekend at the Abilene Convention Center. On Monday The Curtis House will be open to the public. The museum highlights local African American history. Other events will be held across the state from El Paso, to Austin, to, of course, Galveston.