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  • Writer's pictureAanya M.


Juneteenth, short for June 19th, commemorates the day in 1865 when federal forces arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and free all enslaved people. The troops arrived a full two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Juneteenth is the longest-running African American holiday, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Slavery in Texas had remained relatively unaffected even after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered two months earlier in Virginia at Appomattox Court House, but until U.S. General Gordon Granger stood on Texas soil and read General Orders 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."

The Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately release anybody who was enslaved. The proclamation only applied to Confederate-controlled regions; it did not apply to slave-holding border states or rebel areas that were already under Union control. Many enslaved persons fled behind Union lines as Northern soldiers pushed into the Confederate South.

Slavery had persisted in Texas because there had been no large-scale conflict or considerable presence of Union forces. Many enslavers from outside Texas had relocated to the Lone Star State, seeing it as a secure haven for slavery.

General Granger's arrival in Galveston in June 1865, after the war ended in the spring of 1865, marked freedom for Texas' 250,000 enslaved people. Although not everyone was freed immediately—in some cases, enslavers delayed information until after harvest season—celebrations broke out among newly freed Black people, and Juneteenth was created. With the passage of the 13th Amendment in December of that year, slavery in America was finally abolished.

On June 19, the year after 1865, freedmen in Texas held the first of what would become an annual commemoration of "Jubilee Day." Juneteenth celebrations grew in popularity throughout the years, with music, barbecues, prayer services, and other events, and the tradition spread as Black people migrated from Texas to other parts of the country.

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