“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 quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” — General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865
The above order was issued by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, establishing the Union Army’s authority over the people of Texas and — finally — bringing emancipation to the state of Texas.
Wait. Didn’t President Lincoln already do that via the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier?
Yes. And no.
When Granger assumed command of the Department of Texas, the Confederate capital in Richmond, Virginia had already fallen, Lincoln was dead and the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery was headed toward ratification.
But Texas was and remains a big state, far removed from Washington and, largely, from Union troops. In short, making emancipation so, on paper at least, did not make it so right away. Certainly not in Texas. That is, until June 19, 1865.
And that one remarkable event also led to June 19 becoming a day of celebration of emancipation. It became a shared holiday among African Americans as a defining moment in the history of emancipation, one that continues today well beyond the borders of Texas.
Indeed, there are other dates that are tied to the emancipation of black slaves.
n Sept. 22, the day Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation Order in 1862
n Jan. 1, the day Lincoln’s proclamation took effect in 1863
n Jan. 31, the date the 13th Amendment passed Congress in 1865 and officially abolishing the institution of slavery
Yes, these and other dates are significant mileposts in emancipation, but June 19 — referred to as Juneteenth — stands tall as black America’s equivalent of July 4.
We join our black brothers and sisters in celebrating the significance of today. And we urge the continuation of efforts to ensure all vestiges of slavery and injustice are eliminated from our country.