HISTORY OF JUNETEENTH


Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery. Dating
back to 1865, it was on June 19 that the Union soldiers, led by Major
General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the
war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was
two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation
- which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation
Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of
Union troops to enforce the new executive order. However, with the
surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General
Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and
overcome the resistance.

All later attempts to explain this two-and-half-year delay in the receipt of
this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed
down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was
murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another is that
the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor
force on the plantations. And still another is that the federal troops actually
waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest
before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.

All or none of them could be true. For whatever the reason, conditions in
Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

General Order Number 3

One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the
people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly
with:

“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 rights and rights of property between former
masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them
becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
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SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA JUNETEENTH CELEBRATION
Lafayette, Louisiana
1865 - 2014 ~ Celebrating 149 Years of Freedom