In what is now known as Juneteenth, on June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrive in Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War is over and slavery in the United States is abolished.
A mix of June and 19th, Juneteenth has become a day to commemorate the end of slavery in America. Despite the fact that President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued more than two years earlier on January 1, 1863, a lack of Union troops in the rebel state of Texas made the order difficult to enforce.
Some historians blame the lapse in time on poor communication in that era, while others believe Texan slave-owners purposely withheld the information.
READ MORE: What Is Juneteenth?
Upon arrival and leading the Union soldiers, Major Gen. Gordon Granger announced 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 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.”
On that day, 250,000 enslaved people were freed, and despite the message to stay and work for their owners, many now-former slaves left the state immediately and headed north or to nearby states in search of family members they’d been ripped apart from.
For many African Americans, June 19 is considered an independence day. Forty-seven states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday, but efforts to make it a national holiday have so far stalled in Congress.
READ MORE: What Abraham Lincoln Thought About Slavery
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