On June 19, 1865 news arrived in Texas that slavery was abolished. This occurred two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation declaring that all slaves in the states engaged in rebellion against the Union were free. Enslaved Africans in Texas were the last slaves in the states fighting against the Union to receive word of their freedom.
Major General Gordon Granger led Union Soldiers into Galveston and issued General Orders Number 3 on June 19th, which read, in part:
“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.”
One year later in 1866, freed Africans in America began what is now an annual celebration of their independence from slavery. Today, Juneteenth (a blend of the words June and nineteenth) festivals and events marking the independence of enslaved Africans in America are increasing throughout the U.S. as calls rise for Juneteenth to be recognized as a national holiday.
Harvard Medical School held its first Juneteenth program on June 19, 2020.
For more information on Juneteenth, visit: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/what-is-juneteenth/