Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862 with an effective date of January 1, 1863|
it had minimal immediate effect on most slaves’ day-to-day lives, particularly in the Confederate States of America.
Texas, as a part of the Confederacy, was resistant to the Emancipation Proclamation, and though slavery was very
prevalent in East Texas, it was not as common in the Western areas of Texas, particularly the Hill Country, where
most German-Americans were opposed to the practice. Juneteenth commemorates June 18 and 19, 1865. June 18 is the
day Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take possession of the
state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves. On June 19, 1865, legend has it while standing on the balcony
of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Granger read the contents of “General Order No. 3”. Some two months after General Lee’s
surrender at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865.
“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.
That day has since become known as Juneteenth, a name derived from a portmanteau of the words June and nineteenth.
Former slaves in Galveston rejoiced in the streets with jubilant celebrations. Juneteenth celebrations began in
Texas the following year. Across many parts of Texas, freed people pooled their funds to purchase land specifically
for their communities’ increasingly large Juneteenth gatherings — including Houston’s Emancipation Park, Mexia’s
Booker T. Washington Park, and Emancipation Park in Austin.
The state of Texas is widely considered the first U.S. state to begin Juneteenth celebrations with informal observances
taking place for over a century, it has been an official state holiday since 1980. It is considered a "partial staffing
holiday", meaning that state offices do not close, but some employees will be using a floating holiday to take the day
off. Its observance has spread to many other states, with a few celebrations even taking place in other countries.
As of May 2011, 39 states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or state
holiday observance; these are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia,
Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska,
New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas,
Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.