June 19th, known as Juneteenth, commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States in 1865. That is the day that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed in Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the slaves were now free. This occurred two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official January 1, 1863. The slaves in Texas were the very last slaves to be freed after the Civil War because Confederate troops were fighting for several weeks after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender and there were few Union troops in the region to enforce the new Executive Order, which Texans ignored until the arrival of General Granger’s regiment.
Granger’s orders read: “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 free laborer.”
Several explanations are given as to why the Texas slaves were not freed until June 19, 1865. The reasons ranged from poor communication technology during the period to the slave-owners’ efforts to finish the last harvest before releasing their enslaved workforce.
Juneteenth was traditionally celebrated in Texas and Border States such as Louisiana and Arkansas. Juneteenth was given official holiday status in Texas in 1979, causing the closure of banks, government offices, and schools. In other parts of the country, Juneteenth is celebrated unofficially. For more information about Juneteenth, Click Here.