"A Moment of Silence / Let Freedom Ring," an exhibition of work by CVAD Assistant Professor Lauren Cross is part of the Nasher Sculpture Center’s second offsite Nasher Public project that debuts just in time to commemorate Juneteenth. The project is in collaboration with For Oak Cliff, a non-profit organization that works with community members to create a culture of education and upward social mobility for people in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas.
The exhibition will be on view from June 19 through Sept. 19, 2021, at For Oak Cliff, 907 E. Ledbetter Dr., Dallas.
Cross's installation in the For Oak Cliff Community Center lobby, pictured, signifies the news of the Emancipation Proclamation that took nearly three years to reach enslaved people in Texas after it was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Sept. 22, 1862. The proclamation declared that as of Jan. 1, 1863, all enslaved people "shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." News about freedom did not reach enslaved people in Texas until June 19, 1865, when U.S. Army Major General Gordon Granger issued Headquarters District of Texas General Order No. 3, which informed the people of Texas that all enslaved people were now free. As African Americans celebrated their freedom and explored opportunities, they also hosted annual celebrations to commemorate the date, now known as Juneteenth. The day also is called Freedom Day, Liberation Day or Emancipation Day, and it is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. In December 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified and abolished slavery.
In a House vote of 415-14, the U.S. Congress moved to establish Juneteenth as a new national holiday just in time for the 156th anniversary of the momentous day and President Joe Biden signed it into law on June 17, 2021.
The announcement of emancipation in Galveston was just the beginning of informing slaves in Texas of their freedom. Cross imagines the word spreading from there, person to person, through towns, across fields, and along the rivers, streams, and creeks that run through the landscape. She connects the trees in Galveston with those in East Texas, where she spent summers visiting her grandparents, and around the campus at For Oak Cliff: silent witnesses to freedom as it spread across the state. All of these elements—words, trees, water — figure prominently in her installation. Silhouettes of trees stand witness on the windows of the building echoing the many trees on the grounds outside and recalling those in Galveston. A limpid blue wash projected across the windows and walls recalls the waterways forded to bring the word of freedom. Cross makes the connection plain in a sign extolling the sacrifices made to carry the word of freedom that accompanies the installation. Banners and images of Juneteenth parades, past and present, call to mind the journey of the word of freedom in 1865, as well as more recent civil rights marches, reminding one that the journey continues.
The site where enslaved people in Galveston formally were informed of their freedom is now a parking lot, its significance indicated by a simple historical marker, pictured, near a bench and a few trees. The simple and understated marking of the site belittles and downplays the event's historical importance, which is consistent with the way the lives and contributions of many African Americans have been overlooked and underappreciated.
Words of the Installation in the For Oak Cliff Lobby
"Word about your freedom has traveled a long way to get here. There were many rivers, lakes, streams, and creeks to cross in order to get here. The price for your liberation was bloodshed, you were not free — indeed very valuable. Many sacrifices were made to ensure that you could experience the peace that you feel in this moment.
"Now that your moment of freedom has come, what are you going to do with it?"
Juneteenth Activities with Dr. Cross
June 18, 6-7 p.m.: To animate and expand upon the installation, Cross will host an online panel discussion about Juneteenth. Join the conversation by registering via Eventbrite.
June 19, 8:30 a.m.: 2.5-mile Juneteenth Walk around the For Oak Cliff property
Additional ways to commemorate Juneteenth
The UNT Human Resources team has compiled the following list of related events, movies and books to learn more about Juneteenth.
Artwork: 5 Pieces of Juneteenth Art We Adore by Black Southern Belle
Books: List of recommended reading