June 20, 2022 •
On January 1, 1863, slavery was legally ended in the rebelling states following the Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued by President Abraham Lincoln. In practice, however, due to the technology at the time, as well as the ongoing Civil War, slavery did not end in the United States until June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, where he announced that both the Civil War and slavery ended.
“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.”
Even after this announcement, though, many of the 250,000 enslaved African Americans in Texas remained enslaved. This includes at least 150,000 slaves who had been brought over to Texas following the capture of New Orleans in 1862.
The first celebration of Juneteenth was held on June 19, 1866 in Texas. This celebration largely consisted of community-centric events, like parades, cookouts, prayer gatherings, historical and cultural readings, and musical performances. At many of these events, former slaves would speak about their time in enslavement. A number of these communities would even purchase land for Juneteenth celebrations, with examples including Emancipation Park in Houston and Emancipation Park in Austin.
Many of these celebrations continued into the early 20th century, with African Americans treating the day like the Fourth of July. Overtime, the celebration of Juneteenth spread to other parts of the country as African Americans migrated out of Texas. By the Second World War, however, many of these celebrations began to decline. While celebrations for Juneteenth began to wane during the 1950s to the 1970s, in 1980, Texas became the first state in the country to make Juneteenth a state holiday, with most states soon making state holidays for Juneteenth as well. With the signing of S.475, Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, by President Biden on June 17, 2021, Juneteenth became a federal holiday as well.
For more information on Juneteenth, check out these resources:
S.475 – Juneteenth National Independence Day Act: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/475/text
JUNETEENTH AND GENERAL ORDER NO. 3 https://www.galvestonhistory.org/news/juneteenth-and-general-order-no-3
Juneteenth: US to add federal holiday marking end of slavery https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-57493282
Juneteenth: Fact Sheet https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R44865.pdf
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