Juneteenth originated in Galveston, Texas, when enslaved people were told of their emancipation on this day in history, June 19, 1865.
Texas was the first state to make it an official celebration.
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, yet slavery’s end was not implemented in certain places that were still under Confederate control until later, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Enslaved people already had been freed two-and-a-half years earlier, when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, according to PBS.
So freedom arrived on June 19, 1865, when about 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, recounts the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The Union army with Major General Gordon Granger, commanding officer of the District of Texas, announced that more than 250,000 enslaved African American citizens in the state were free by executive decree, the same source cites.
“In accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
“Granger delivered to Galveston General Orders, No. 3. The order informed all Texans that, in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves were free,” says the Galveston Historical Society.
General Order No. 3 stated, according to multiple sources: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
It went on, “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.”
The official handwritten record of General Order No. 3, is preserved at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., according to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
Juneteenth is celebrated annually on June 19th and the holiday’s name is a combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth,” according to multiple sources.
The annual commemoration of Juneteenth has grown from local roots to a national celebration featuring parades, readings, procession and more.
It is considered the longest-running holiday in African American and Black communities, and was often observed with community celebrations on the third Saturday in June, PBS indicated.
The annual commemoration of Juneteenth has grown from local roots to a national celebration featuring parades, readings, procession, and more, chronicles the Galveston Historical Society.
Prayer, reflection, community leadership
In 1979, the Galveston Juneteenth Committee initiated an annual Juneteenth Celebration and events included the reading of General Orders, No. 3 through prayer, reflections and community leadership.
A law passed by the Texas Legislature in 1979 officially made Juneteenth a Texas state holiday on Jan. 1, 1980, the Galveston Historical Society recounted.
In 2006, the Juneteenth Committee with the City of Galveston erected a statue of the reading of the order that remains a permanent reminder to residents and visitors of the June 19, 1865, event, according to the Galveston History Society.
The City of Galveston transferred the building and grounds in 2018 to the Galveston Historical Foundation who now manage and preserve the property, according to the same source.
On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, making June 19 a legal public holiday.
June 19, 2023, marks the 158th anniversary of Juneteenth.
The official name of the federal holiday is Juneteenth National Independence Day — also called Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Black Independence Day and Juneteenth Independence Day, according to Britannica.
The day joined 10 other permanent federal holidays — including Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Veterans Day, according to the Congressional Research Service.