Juneteenth Day is a holiday commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger came to Galveston, Texas and announced the end of the Civil War and freedom for black slaves. This is the first time that some slaves heard the news, and the first time it was delivered to all the people of Texas with the imprimatur of the Federal Government.
General Order No. 3
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor. The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
[Note, however, that it was not until the 13th Amendment was adopted in December 1865 that slavery was ended in all parts of the United States. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued January 1, 1863, only applied to certain states, but including any states in rebellion, reading: “I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.” Loyal border states were not affected by the proclamation. The 13th Amendment passed months after the War was over provided that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” ]
The celebration of June 19 as emancipation day spread from Texas to the neighboring states and north as blacks migrated from the South. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.
On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition.
Today Juneteenth festivities celebrate African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, parades, picnics and family gatherings. To see what events are scheduled in your state, you can click here.