By: Ricardo Kaulessar
Originally published at USA TODAY NETWORK
Featured image: Morgan Sarkissian
The United States is crisscrossed by historical trails, both physical and virtual, that follow the journey of the African American experience. There are also trails yet to be blazed.
Naomi Carrier is hoping to see her dream of an Emancipation National Historic Trail realized in her native Texas. The trail would start in Galveston and run 51 miles north to Houston, tracing the path that people newly freed from slavery took after word of emancipation reached them in June 1865 – the occasion now celebrated as Juneteenth.
“We believe in the concept that there should be a trail because our stories are not being told, and this is a way to tell some of those stories,” Carrier said.
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New trails in the making
Carrier spent more than 30 years as a schoolteacher, devoting much of her time educating students about the rich history of African Americans in the Lone Star State. She has not stopped teaching that history since she retired a decade ago, and the proposed trail is a continuation of those efforts.
“The impetus for the Emancipation Trail is that Texas Black history is virtually unknown,” Carrier said. Among the events, she points to the Battle of Palmito Ranch, considered by many to be the last Civil War battle, which was fought in Texas in May 1865.
If designated by Congress after a study by the National Park Service by the end of 2023, it would be the second national historic trail centered on African American history. The first was the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail in Alabama, marking the 1965 voting rights marches.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, state legislator Antwan McClellan is also looking forward to a new historic trail.
McClellan was the lead sponsor of a bill, recently signed into law by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, to create the New Jersey Black Heritage Trail. The bill authorizes the placement of historical markers at important sites throughout the state, as well as a dedicated website that plots out a virtual trail and travel itineraries for visitors.