June 19: Emancipation Day (Tex.)
Emancipation Day, also called Juneteenth, celebrates the end of slavery and freedom on June 19, 1865 in eastern Texas and portions of the surrounding states. On that day, General Gordon Granger landed with Federal troops in Galveston, Texas, with the intention of enforcing President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863. The end of slavery was a gradual process, occurring as news of the proclamation reached outlying towns and states. Juneteenth was probably a shortened version of June 19th. A proclamation from the president stated that all slaves were now free, and the relationship between master and slave was now employer and employee: “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.” Beginning the year following this Texas event, 1866, large celebrations to rival the Fourth of July began, including prayer services, inspirational speakers, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, storytelling by former slaves, and traditional food and games. Soon neighboring states such as Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma were adding celebrations. Throughout Texas, ex-slaves purchased land for their Juneteenth gatherings. June 19 was declared a legal holiday in Texas in 1980. For more on this holiday, visit the Texas State Library and Archives Commission or The Worldwide Juneteenth Celebration.