June 19, 1865, which is now known as “Juneteenth,” celebrates the official end of slavery in Texas. Even though President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation two years prior, it had minimal effect on Texas, which remained one of the last strongholds of the South.

Even after the last battle of the Civil War in 1865, which was two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, roughly 250,000 enslaved people still did not know that they were free. It was not until Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced to the still enslaved people that President Lincoln had issued a proclamation freeing them, stating in the now-famous decree entitled “General Order 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. 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 issuance of this order sparked celebrations that spread throughout the South and beyond. Early days of celebrations included church services, public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, and social events.

Little interest in Juneteenth celebrations existed outside of the African American community in the early years. Barring the use of public property for Juneteenth activities thwarted many festivities. However, as more and more African Americans became landowners, the donation and purchase of land dedicated to these festivities brought about a large increase of these annual celebrations.

The early 1900s brought about a decline in Juneteenth celebrations. Both economic and cultural influences contributed to this decline. Classroom teachings focused on Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation as the official date that ended slavery – this significantly impacted youth involvement and observation of Juneteenth traditions.

Juneteenth celebrations saw a resurgence during the 1950s and 1960s during African Americans’ fight for civil rights. Texas blazed the trail on January 1, 1980, by declaring Juneteenth an official state holiday. But in recent years, and particularly following nationwide protests in 2020, there has been a renewed interest in Juneteenth celebrations.

On June 17, 2021, Juneteenth became the 11th federal holiday. You can celebrate by learning the history, supporting Black-owned businesses, supporting Black artists, and attending any local Juneteenth events in your area. Check out this resource for more suggestions on celebrations.

Additionally, we encourage everyone to check out this 3-minute video from the History Channel to learn more about this important milestone in American history: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MR3WqYI6wco.