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Bryan historian reflects on decades of Juneteenth celebrations

Posted at 10:05 AM, Jun 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-19 11:05:13-04

BRYAN, TX — Brazos Valley African American Museum curator Oliver Wayne Sadburry spoke with KRHD this week about Juneteenth, Brazos County's racial history, and his own experience growing up in Bryan.

The museum staffer is passionate about telling the stories of the local community. Sadburry recalled celebrating Juneteenth as a young child growing up in Bryan.

“Juneteenth was a welcome holiday," Sadburry said. "It was something people really appreciated, always barbecues and parades, lots of singing, a lot of gaiety in the Black community.”

Sadburry explained that his family was still feeling the residual effects of slavery, even whilst living in the twentieth century.

“It was segregated, so there was still the distinction between Black and white," he noted.

Sadburry stressed the importance of studying history. He pointed out that a number of local all-Black schools burned down prior to segregation; tragedies that many Aggieland residents may not recall. He feels much of the multi-racial community today doesn’t know much about local Black history, including the fact that Tuskegee Airmen were stationed in Bryan as military flight instructors in the 1940s.

“See, that’s why we need to talk and be open, not just one-sided," he commented. "Because you don’t get the full story when it’s one-sided."

Sadburry indicated that lingering post-emancipation racism even affected the visiting Tuskeegee Airmen.

“Given that it was segregated, they had to live in our part of town, and it was even worse," he said. "As a young kid, I was influenced by those pilots. But it was something the white kids my age weren’t exposed to.”

While Sadburry noted he has seen great strides made in the United States over his lifetime, he still believes Americans could become more unified, and offer more equal opportunities for minority groups in positions of power.

"We’ve got to work together," he said. "I was so glad that President Biden signed the Juneteenth national holiday [declaration]. That was a monumental moment.”