Today in Black History: Juneteenth

June 19th, 1865 Union Major General Gordon Granger read General Order #3 to the people of Galveston, TX

It stated “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 become 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.”

Large celebrations began in 1866 and continue to the present, African-Americans treat this day like the Fourth of July. In the early days, the celebration included a prayer service, speakers with inspirational messages, reading of the emancipation proclamation, stories from former slaves, food, red soda water, games, rodeo dances. The tradition spread as African-American Texans migrated. Celebration of Juneteenth declined during World War II but revived in 1950 and fell away again during the 1960’s as attention focused on expansion of freedom for African-Americans.

In 1976, after a 25 year hiatus, House Bill Number 1016, passed in the 66th legislature, declared June 19 “Emancipation Day in Texas,” a legal state holiday effective January 1, 1980 and the celebration of Juneteenth continues.

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