On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger of the Union Army landed at Galveston, Texas. His mission that day? To inform the enslaved people of the city that they were free and the Civil War, the bloodiest war ever fought on American soil, was over. The Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order which called for the of slavery in 1863, was not enforced in Texas due to the fact that the Union Army did not have enough troops stationed in Texas to do so.
Many stories have been told about how exactly the delay occurred for Texas slaves to understand they were free. One tale is that of a messenger who was murdered on his way to the state with news that freedom had indeed come after 246 of chattel slavery. Others believe that the news was withheld from slaves solely to continue the benefits of slave labor.
Granger read General Order No. 3 on that day, informing the people:
“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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”
Jubilee had indeed begun.
In the 155 years since the slaves were freed in Texas, Juneteenth has evolved as a national holiday across the country. Many Texans were taught that Juneteenth was a holiday specified for them as the origins originate in Texas but in fact, Juneteenth has a global reach. A few slaves who escaped from Texas and went to Mexico and settled in a place called Nacimiento or “Birth of the Blacks” in Mexico. Every summer on June 19, they hold a reunion called el Dia de los Negros, the Day of the Blacks.
Education & Self Improvement: The power of Juneteenth was that while it was a celebration of freedom, it was also a time to educate those who did not know the story of how Texas slaves came to be free. The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s helped not only raise awareness for Juneteenth, but it also grew in name and stature due to the Poor People’s March to Washington D.C. in 1968. Two of the largest Juneteenth celebrations today now occur outside of Texas in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday. On January 1, 1980, Al Edwards, a Black state legislator helped push the bill to become law and make it the first emancipation celebration that was granted state recognition. As of today, 47 of the 50 states as well as Washington D.C. recognize Juneteenth as a state or ceremonial holiday with Utah being the latest state to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday in 2016. Only Hawaii and the Dakotas have yet to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday.
Want to know how you can celebrate Juneteenth? Here are a few resources to do so nationally.
How To Celebrate Juneteenth During A Pandemic – We’re still in a pandemic and there are ways to not only go down to Galveston (if you’re in Texas) but also ways to celebrate Juneteenth while also staying safe.
Juneteenth: The History, Legacy & How To Celebrate was originally published on theboxhouston.com