Little Known Black History Fact: Juneteenth Drowning At Lake Mexia

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Mexia, Texas was the site of a horrific drowning of three Black teenagers who were arrested during the town’s large “Juneteenth” celebration on June 19, 1981. The teenagers, Carl Baker, 19 years old; Steven Booker, 19, and Anthony Freeman, 18, all drowned while being transported in a boat with three law enforcement officials across a lake when the boat capsized.

It was widely reported that the Black youth were handcuffed when the boat tipped over, an allegation that could have merit as all the officials survived. According to a 2001 article written for the Texas Observer by author Johnathan Coleman, the teenagers were at Comanche Crossing, which rests on the shore of Lake Mexia, for the Juneteenth celebration.

The day marked the occasion when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865 to deliver the news that slaves were now free; the Emancipation Proclamation passed in 1863 at the top of that year. Mexia was one of the first Texas towns to widely celebrate Juneteenth.

Baker, Booker and Freeman were arrested for marijuana possession that night and arrested by deputies Kenny Elliott and Kenneth Archie, a Black man, who were also accompanied by probation officer David Drummond. The officers loaded a small boat with the teenagers to transport them across Lake Mexia.

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