For more than 250,000 African Americans in Galveston, Texas, June 19, 1865 was a day of jubilation, as it signaled the final day of their enslavement. Two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863, Texas had yet to officially recognize the President’s executive order. Not until Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX with 2,000 soldiers on June 19, 1865 did African Americans learn about their emancipation. To the people of Galveston, Granger read 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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer. 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.”
Today, 45 of the 50 US states and the District of Columbia recognize June 19th—more commonly known as Juneteenth, as a state or ceremonial holiday. And across the nation, African Americans celebrate Juneteenth to commemorate the freedom that their enslaved ancestors fought for and finally realized.