Local student commemorates Juneteenth, researches first black community of San Benito

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HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — President Joe Bidden officially signed Juneteenth into a federal holiday on Thursday, and one local student dedicated his school project to commemorate the origins.

Leonardo Cantu, a seventh-grader at STEM² Preparatory Academy researched the first black community and “colored school” of San Benito for his National Junior Honor Society community service project.

“Many black students didn’t have a school to go to, so many people such as Lonnie Davis, went to that school,” Cantu said.

Leonardo Cantu //PHOTO: KVEO

During his research, Cantu learned about the Callandret couple, Joe and Fanny.

“Joe Callandret actually bought all of this land, but he actually wasn’t the most important here—Fanny Callandret was,” said Cantu.

The Callandret’s were the first black family in San Benito in 1908, and Fanny made sure the black kids in the community had an education.

Kids like Lonnie Davis, who said he and his father attended the original “colored school” which was destroyed after a major hurricane hit in the 1930s.

Credit: KVEO Iris Karami; Pictured L-R Lonnie Davis, a former student of the original ‘colored school’ in San Benito, Sandra Tumberlinson Co-Founder of the Callandret Black History Museum

Davis said that all grade levels were taught by the same teacher in the same classroom.

“Very disciplined and Mrs. Jackson was a disciplinarian,” said Davis who recalled his teacher at the colored school.

A second colored school was eventually built which is now the Callandret Black History Museum.

He said the black community was close to one another and happy, though they always knew they were segregated—and despite being poor—Davis said everybody was well educated.

“That’s all you knew. We thought it was the normal thing to do,” said Davis. “It didn’t bother us as much as you would think because we were very happy and I will always have this story I will tell.”

He recalls all the Juneteenth celebrations as a child growing up, and says they would celebrate it for days.

“That used to be a great day here in San Benito because we would have barbecue and baseball all day long, and for a couple of days we would celebrate Juneteenth,” said Davis.

Although it has been signed as a federal holiday, he said it is more of a Texan holiday than a national one.

“I think people don’t realize the significance of Juneteenth because Juneteenth means that the last place in the whole of America that were free—and that was Texas,” said Davis. “It’s just somebody’s gonna say that we did it, but what did they do? Because it was a Texas thing.”

Now, Cantu is still gathering research for his project which will be displayed at the Callandret Black History Museum in San Benito.

“I feel that everybody should learn more about religions and cultures that aren’t ours, but we still should learn,” said Cantu.

Credit: KVEO Iris Karami; Pictured: Lonnie Davis explaining Juneteenth in San Benito when he was a child

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