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Galveston, the birthplace of Juneteenth, honors late lawmaker who led charge to make it a state holiday

Juneteenth -- the day enslaved Texans learned they were free -- became a state holiday in 1980. The late state legislator who made it happen was honored today.

GALVESTON, Texas —

  1. The 43rd Al Edwards Juneteenth Celebration was hosted at the Ashton Villa in Galveston Saturday. The late former state representative from Houston worked tirelessly to make Juneteenth a state holiday.

His statue sits in front of the Ashton Villa where the proclamation was made on June 19, 1865, that enslaved Texans were free.

"This is why we meet at Ashton Villa, this is my father's statue is here because he knew the significance of acknowledging the fact that all slaves were not free.” said Edward’s daughter, Alana Edwards-Holloway. "Until all of us were free, none of us were free."

Her father introduced the piece of legislation that made Juneteenth a state holiday. It was signed into law in 1979 and observed for the first time in Texas in 1980.

"Many people do not know the significance of his work around Juneteenth and everything that he did to make sure that, not only that it became a state holiday and that it became a state holiday in 35 other states, but also his vision for it to become a national holiday,” Edwards-Holloway explained.

Edwards passed away in 2020, a year before the state holiday would become nationally recognized.

Alana’s says the event is a time of reflection.

"I know that his presence is here. It'll always be here, and I know his vision has now come to pass."

For the last 43 years, Edward’s Juneteenth celebration has become one of Galveston’s staple events.

Alana and her other siblings have taken over Edwards' Juneteenth USA nonprofit organization.

She says she’s picking up where her father left off working to educate the public. 

“It’s an important piece of history and everyone has a right to know the truth about our history."

WATCH: Full presentation of KHOU 11's "Juneteenth 1865-2022: The Pursuit of Economic Equality."

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