Galveston's momentous piece of history
The Galveston County Daily News went well beyond the traditional special section to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the day slavery ended after the Civil War. Publisher Leonard Woolsey calls the resulting 56-page glossy color magazine "a piece that's now going to be a part of Galveston history."
June 19 is known as Juneteeth in much of the South and is celebrated most often in Texas. Although President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation some two years earlier, it wasn't until June 19, 1865, that Union troops reached Galveston Island and slaves in Texas were declared free by order of Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger.
The text of the order is reproduced at the end of a story on Page 10 of the magazine (http://resources.galvnews.com/sections/juneteenth150/). A reproduction of the Daily News front page for June 21, 1865, where the order originally was printed, appears on Page 8.
"This is where Gen. Granger read the orders," Woolsey said. "This was the final place in the United States where slavery was legal and it was being practiced. And it officially ended right here, on this island."
The newspaper's role in the historic event was one reason Woolsey thought the paper should be involved in educating people about and raising awareness of Juneteenth 150 years later.
Planning the magazine began in the late summer of 2014. Woolsey reached out to the African-American community as well as others involved in previous celebrations.
"They said, 'Why don't we do it in February;' then we could use the tool all year long to educate and highlight Juneteenth," Woolsey said. An in-house committee of volunteers got to work on editorial topics, advertising sales and design. In February, which is Black History Month, the magazine was published.
The Daily News, the oldest newspaper in Texas, circulates about 20,000 papers. The Juneteenth magazine did much better than that in over-the-counter sales, schools, nearby towns and ultimately throughout the South. Billings totaled $45,000.
"We printed 25,000 to start out with, and then one person came and purchased another 5,000 copies for educational purposes," Woolsey said. "So we ordered another printing of them."
The person who bought 5,000 new copies is involved with the official celebration and has placed copies in Alabama, Texas and Louisiana hotels, Woolsey said. He has been told that some copies were being circulated at the 50th anniversary observance of the civil rights march that began in Selma, Ala.
The magazine features striking photography and multiple stories about people explaining what Juneteenth means to them and their families, Woolsey said. Daily News staffers did interviews in some cases and in others helped the people featured to write their own essays.
The cover features the painting "Juneteenth" by Ted Ellis, a well-known Texas African-American artist. Woolsey said he simply picked up the phone and called Ellis to ask if he would allow the paper to use one of his original pieces on the cover. "He was super-generous about it," the publisher said. "He had the high-res files sent to us immediately."
While Woolsey expects that, as Juneteenth draws closer, the Daily News will produce a more traditional special section highlighting the event itself and scheduled activities, he said the magazine is an example of how newspapers can "re-present" history.
"This fits right within our mission, which is to find an opportunity to publish and educate, inspire and at the same time deliver something unique to our readership. It was one of those pieces that we knew if we didn't do it, no one was going to do it."
For more information, contact Galveston County Daily News Publisher Leonard Woolsey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jane Nicholes, a regular contributor to the eBulletin, is a freelance writer and editor based in coastal Alabama. She is an award-winning veteran of more than 30 years in the newspaper business. Reach her at email@example.com.