Juneteenth—an annual celebration of the Union Army’s June 19, 1865, proclamation of freedom for slaves in Texas—began as a strictly local event in the Lone Star State. But over the decades, the holiday began being celebrated in other parts of the South and the U.S. It was finally recognized as a federal holiday in 2021—and now Fort Worth hopes to be the home of its national commemorative museum.
The planned $70 million National Juneteenth Museum aims to turn an annual holiday into a year-round global attraction. At the same time, it’s intended to be a source of economic vitality and a beacon of hope for Fort Worth’s historic Southside.
To advance the project, the Fort Worth City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to pledge $15 million for the museum’s development, to be delivered once the balance of the $70 million budget has been raised. The project has been in the making for several years, but was officially announced only last December.
The museum’s design—including three adjacent residential buildings in the development slated to be built in the city’s Evans and Rosedale corridor—was unveiled during a recent work session at the City Council.
Designed by firm that co-designed Google’s new HQ
The museum was designed by the New York office of Denmark-based Bjarke Ingels Group—part of the team that designed Google’s stunning new headquarters in Northern California.
“Literally and figuratively, it was designed to be a beacon of light in an area that has been dark for a very long time,” Jarred Howard, principal with Sable Brands and the project’s developer, said in a statement. “It’s time for the revitalization of the historic Southside. Our hope is that the city will embrace it.”
Howard, who grew up in Fort Worth’s Stop Six neighborhood, says the museum’s design draws on the Juneteenth Star featured on the official Juneteenth flag.
Aimed at complementing the nationally celebrated museums in Fort Worth’s Cultural District, the museum could serve as a global attraction, Howard said, drawing even more international focus on the Panther City.
A business incubator, ampitheater, storefronts and more
Being more than just a museum is part of the plan. The developers aim for the development to inspire greater economic vitality for the neighborhood.
So the museum will be housed on the building’s second level, with businesses buzzing below to serve both museum visitors and the surrounding community.
The ground level will feature a business incubator, a restaurant, a 250-seat amphitheater, and storefronts. The three new residential buildings adjacent to the museum will offer 55 residences.
A groundbreaking could happen by the end of this year or the first quarter of 2023, the city said. The museum’s grand opening is slated for mid-2025.
Fort Worth activist Opal Lee was a driving force behind the federal holiday
There’s one other reason the museum’s location in Fort Worth is fitting. City resident and activist Opal Lee was a driving force behind Juneteenth’s adoption as a federal holiday. Known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” 95-year-old Lee was the namesake of an event known as Opal’s Walk. On September 23, 2020, amid a national reckoning following the death of George Floyd, she delivered a petition with 1.54 million signatures to Congress in Washington, D.C., urging the passage of a law making Juneteenth a national holiday. Her efforts came to fruition one year later.
More looks at the design of the National Juneteenth Museum:
Get on the list.
Dallas Innovates, every day.
Sign up to keep your eye on what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, every day.