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Wednesday, June 19, 2013
On June 19, 1865 two months after the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee ended hostilities between the US and Confederate states, US General Gordon Granger and his troops landed in Galveston, Texas, restoring Federal control to Texas . Upon arrival, Granger issued 3 general orders to the people of Texas. The third begins:
“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.”
During the war, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in rebellious states, however in practice, slaves were not freed until Union troops arrived to enforce their freedom, and the US Army was singularly unsuccessful fighting in Texas. The EP had almost no effect on Texas slaves or their owners.
Upon Granger's order the newly freed rejoiced, and most celebrated the anniversary of Gen Granger's decree, known as Juneteenth, for the rest of their lives. By the turn of the 20th century, with many of the former slaves dead, enthusiasm for and education about Juneteenth ended. By the Great Depression, annual observances had practically come to an end. It took the leaders of the 1960's civil rights upheavals to remind the younger generation of the struggles of their ancestors, for Juneteenth festivities to be renewed.
Today, 27 states and the District of Columbia celebrate Juneteenth along with Texans.