Jarred Howard ('95) had a calling.
He wanted a site that would celebrate Juneteenth -- and accurately reflect the passion and culture of the Historic Southside neighborhood in Fort Worth, his hometown.
But, he says, "For the first several years, it was just me."
Since he came up with the idea seven years ago, he has built a foundation for the development. He laid out plans, sought out real estate and recruited board members, staff and other stakeholders.
Now he is CEO of the National Juneteenth Museum, which will commemorate the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas learned that they were free, two-and-a-half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The site is expected to open in 2025.
"The vision is, quite frankly, God-given but it's mine," he says. "The board wanted me to be the guy that executed it."
Leveraging the latest technology, the museum will tell the story of Juneteenth, which became a federal holiday in 2021.
"We hope to inform and educate as much as anything else," he says.
The 50,000-square-foot space, on the corner of Rosedale Street and Evans Avenue, also will include a food hall, theater and a business incubator with retail space. The organization already has launched Uniting Voices, the National Juneteenth Museum Speaker Series, which will feature activist and Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson June 15.
"This development is more than the museum," Howard says. "The museum is the anchor that will catalyze economic development in Fort Worth."
The museum boasts other connections to UNT. Lauren Cross, assistant professor of interdisciplinary art and design studies in the College of Visual Arts and Design, is the museum's executive strategist -- a role in which she will develop the museum's curatorial plan, programming and organization. Board members include Deah Berry-Mitchell, a doctoral student in history, and Sydney Jones, a doctoral student in political science at UNT and adjunct faculty at UNT Dallas.
And Howard frequently talks to Opal Lee ('63 M.Ed.), who earned the title of "Grandmother of Juneteenth" for her tireless advocacy to make it a federal holiday. She recently received an honorary doctorate from UNT.
"We work in lockstep with each other," he says. "She was one of the first people I connected with this."
Howard was working on this vision while maintaining a career in various corporations. The marketing major, who grew up in Fort Worth, says he learned much of the principles of business from the late Barbara Coe, a professor in the G. Brint Ryan College of Business.
After graduation, he worked in various positions for BankOne, Daimler Chrysler, BNSF Railway, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and Bell Textron.
After planning the museum for so long, he's grateful to see the project become reality.
"It's exciting to know we are building a space where all Juneteenth can be housed and promoted and reflected on," he says. "It's exciting to know there's an appetite for this."