On June 19th, 1865 Major General Gordon Granger issued an order stating, “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.”
This order came the day following Granger’s arrival in Galveston, Texas and realization that President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had not been enforced in confederate Texas. Due to geography and other shenanigans, Texas was the last state to receive word that the war was over and slavery had been abolished. When Granger arrived in 1985 and gave his order (over two years after the emancipation proclamation took effect in the north) there were still 250,000 slaves in Texas making them the last to hear about their freedom.
The date of Granger’s order would come to be called Juneteenth, Freedom Day, or Emancipation Day. As we approach June 19th this year, I hope you all will take some time this week to learn more about Juneteenth. There is a wonderfully informative article from Henry Louis Gates Jr. on PBS as well as a video on Youtube from The Root that are both good starting points.