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Art & Culture, Fine Art, Museums, Recent Posts

Juneteenth Meaning & Charles Criner Art Posters

"Juneteenth" by Charles Criner - Mixed Media on Paper, 2005 - Portion of 1st Juneteenth poster printed in 2006 by Heidelberg
Posted: October 22, 2016 at 2:56 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

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Artist Charles Criner

For more information about this talented and creative artist, check out the article titled Heart & Soul of Art by Charles Criner.

If you click on the above-referenced article, you will have more of an idea of just what goes into a Charles Criner piece of art. He creates many original lithographs at Houston’s Museum of Printing History, but he also paints, sketches and draws like other multi-talented successful artists.  The museum is now called The Printing Museum.


His Early Years

From his early days, while still living at home, Criner’s artistic talents were apparent. Instead of spending much of his time laboring in the fields along with most of the residents in the small Texas town of Athens where he was born, he was busy creating art images.

He celebrated Juneteenth with the rest of his family because his grandmother demanded it. Schools were not yet teaching the significance of that date, nor did he learn it at home.

Charles’ memories of the celebration usually consisted of enjoying a picnic day, eating a Bar-B-Q meal and drinking red soda water. Sometimes if dollars were stretched to the limit, one bottle of the red soda water would be shared by passing it around the table where each of his seven other siblings would each take a sip tingeing their teeth, lips, and tongues red.

Charles Criner did not know the enormous significance of the 19th of June back in those early days. He would learn about that later when he was in Galveston, Texas and a friend pointed out the Ashton Villa to him.

"Man coming out of the water" lithograph by Charles Criner

“Man coming out of the water” lithograph by Charles Criner

Ashton Villa

The photo of the artwork just above titled “Man coming out of the water” represents Charles Criner’s love of fishing. He has spent many of his leisure hours in Galveston and elsewhere pursuing that favorite pastime.

When his friend pointed out the Ashton Villa to him on one of those fishing trips as they passed Broadway at 23rd Street, he became informed of the significance of that red brick building.  Broadway is one of the main boulevard streets leading into Galveston and the Gulf of Mexico waters.

This happened in the mid-1960s when Charles was attending Texas Southern University. It was not only because that impressive home was one of the first homes built with brick in the state. No…it was far more than that!

It was on that wrought iron veranda of this three-story Victorian / Italian styled home that the Union Army General Gordon Granger read aloud the paper instrument called “General Order Number 3.”

Slaves in Texas were first informed at this site that they were now free. That date was June 19, 1865.

Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas http://By Wiki name (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas http://By Wiki name (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Emancipation Proclamation

President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but obviously could not be enforced in states which were still embroiled in the Civil War. Other states and territories were also exempted from this Proclamation.

The Ashton Villa was the home to a successful businessman named Colonel James Moreau Brown and his family. In addition to the expertise of European craftsmen, it was constructed with the use of slave labor. Somehow it seems ironic but fitting that a home built with slave labor was a place where slaves would find out about their freedom.

During the Civil War, at times the Ashton Villa was the headquarters for the Confederate Army, and at other times the Union Army was headquartered there. Now it is a part of the Galveston Historical Foundation, and also serves as a home to the Galveston Island Visitor Center.

A Recorded Texas Landmark, Ashton Villa is also on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public for tours and special events.

Info on each of the Charles Criner Juneteenth posters printed by Heidelberg

Info on each of the Charles Criner Juneteenth posters printed by Heidelberg

Heidelberg Printing Presses

As a permanent artist in residence at The Printing Museum in Houston, Charles Criner was there when Heidelberg Inc. headquartered in Germany came to Houston to give a presentation of their world-renowned printing presses.

Their history dates back to their origination in Heidelberg, Germany in 1850.  The quality of their presses continued to be improved upon through the years until they were considered to be superior to just about all of their competitors claiming just under 50% of the market worldwide.

In 2005 representatives of that company came to Houston and set up some demonstration presses in the Museum of Printing History.

One interested company from Japan wanted to know if they could reproduce fine art prints on their presses.  That is when they approached Charles Criner asking permission to replicate some of his art. Permission was granted, and ultimately millions of dollars of printing presses were sold to Japanese interests as a result of that successful demonstration.

Heidelberg press dated 1965 By Clemens PFEIFFER, Vienna (Own work (own picture)) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Heidelberg press dated 1965 By Clemens PFEIFFER, Vienna (Own work (own picture)) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Heidelberg Posters

Expressing their gratitude to Charles Criner for the part that his art played in those press sales, they agreed to print a poster for him free of charge each year in the amount numbering 2,500. Heidelberg has kept that promise starting from the year 2006 and going forward.

The photo at the top of this page was the very first image printed, and it is titled “Juneteenth.”  It was created in 2005 and is a mixed media piece on paper. Charles has used the posters each year to give out free of charge to students taking tours of the museum as well as other interested parties. The focus of the posters is to publicize the importance and significance of Juneteenth and the freedom of slaves in Texas.

His art reflects the black experience from his perspective and intentionally is a look back in keeping that history alive.

Charles Criner mixed media on paper (2012) titled "Diva of the Pea Field"

Charles Criner mixed media on paper (2012) titled “Diva of the Pea Field.”

Official Texas Holiday

Juneteenth is celebrated by people in Texas as an official state holiday since January 1, 1980. It applauds the day when African Americans first heard that slavery had been abolished.

Celebrating this special day has spread to other states with the natural migration of people outside of the Texas borders. This is not yet an official holiday everywhere. 14 of our 50 states do not yet officially recognize June 19th as a holiday.

During the era of the Civil Rights movement, celebrations on the date of June 19th have at times waned with the focus of gaining more rights other than not simply being owned by another person.

In this day and age, the critical “Emancipation Day in Texas” known as Juneteenth is celebrated with gatherings, parades, picnics, and other activities in good-spirited fun in many places all across the United States.

Mixed media on paper by Charles Criner (2005) titled "Trying to Catch Freedom"

Mixed media on paper by Charles Criner (2005) titled “Trying to Catch Freedom.”

Juneteenth Posters

On all of the Charles Criner Juneteenth posters credit is given to the following entities:

“Poster sponsored by The Museum of Printing History, and the Rutherford B.H.Yates Museum, Houston, Texas. Printed compliments of HEIDELBERG USA INC. KENNESAW, GEORGIA”

Mixed Media on paper (2008) by Charles Criner titled "The Civil War"

Mixed Media on paper (2008) by Charles Criner titled “The Civil War.”

Timeline of Freedom

There are so many dates leading up to the final freedom for all of the slaves in the expanding U.S. and her territories.  Putting just one time on it is a little hard to do.

It started with the African Slave Trade Treaty Act. That took place on April 7, 1862, between Britain and the United States. It had the effect of suppressing the trading of slaves.

September 22, 1862, was when the preliminary announcement of what would become the Emancipation Proclamation was first cited.

January 1, 1863, some 100 days later was when the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln went into effect.

  • This only applied to the Confederate States who had not yet come under the Union flag. It was also obviously hard to enforce, although the technically freed blacks were invited to join the Union troops. Many did which probably helped shorten the War between the States.
  • The Union States who were slaveholders were exempted.
  • Other places like New Orleans and nearby parishes, as well as some territories (yet to become states), were exempted.

November 1, 1864, the abolition of slavery officially went into effect in the State of Maryland.

  • The State of Tennessee followed suit early in 1865.

June 19, 1865, became the date when slaves in Texas first knew of their freedom.

Mixed Media on Paper by Charles Criner (2005) titled "The Blues Man"

Mixed Media on Paper by Charles Criner (2005) titled “The Blues Man.”

December 6, 1865, was the date when the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified by an appropriate number of states to go into effect.

December of 1865, is the date that the 13th Amendment became fully enforced.  It was the official month when slaves all across the United States finally gained their freedom. The state in which they resided no longer mattered.

"Picking Cotton" by Charles Criner (2000)

“Picking Cotton” by Charles Criner (2000)

Showing full Juneteenth poster

Showing full Juneteenth poster

Did you know the relevance and importance of Juneteenth? 

More Art by Charles Criner

You might also have an interest in reading these posts about the art of Charles Criner:

Charles Criner Art and Cotton Picking

Meaning of “Trying to Catch Freedom” by Charles Criner

Charles Criner Art | “Man Coming Out of The Water.”

Location of The Printing Museum and where you can meet Charles Criner: 1324 W Clay St, Houston, Texas 77019.




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