The Emancipation Trail riders cycled for about 55 miles of highways and trails between Galveston and Houston, Texas. Bikers took the route paved by freedmen who left Galveston after learning — two years after the fact — about the end of slavery. The route is now a National Historic Trail. Photos: Michael Starghill for Momentum/Medium

Biking the Juneteenth Freedom Trail

Texas freedmen walked away from plantation owners at the end of slavery. The Emancipation Trail ride covers the original June 19, 1865 route.

Momentum Blog Team
Published in
7 min readJun 22, 2021

This essay is a special contribution to Momentum @ Medium by Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, also an avid cyclist. Scroll down for additional images of the ride, which started in Galveston and ended in Houston’s Emancipation Park.

Living in Texas, I have always felt connected to a special part of Black history in this country. It’s a complicated and difficult history of enslavement, oppression, and discrimination, but also of Black resistance, triumph, and joy. Juneteenth is emblematic of this complicated history. It marks the day that, on June 19, 1865, those who were enslaved in Texas finally learned about their freedom. This came two years after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, because the White plantation owners decided not to pass on the knowledge to the enslaved.

The Emancipation Trail marks the historic route that African Americans took from Galveston toward Houston.

At the same time, regardless of the delay, Juneteenth remains a celebration of freedom, of the promise and excitement that the newly freed Black population of Texas felt as they heard this news. It is this sentiment of Black resistance and joy that we have attempted to capture in our annual bike ride along the Emancipation Trail. The Emancipation Trail marks the historic route that African Americans took from Galveston toward Houston. When I first took the route last year, I found myself doing a lot of thinking. It felt like a pilgrimage of sorts to follow in their footsteps, and to think of the hardships my ancestors had to endure walking along this same trail in search of new possibilities. Along this trail they established new towns, homes, and lives.

Reflecting on this pivotal moment in American history is so important, which is why I am incredibly grateful that, thanks to the efforts of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, this trail is now officially recognized as a National Historic Trail, and that Congress has also decided to recognize Juneteenth as a…