History

The Legacy of Juneteenth and Why It Is So Important to Texans

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June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, commemorates a special day for Americans, particularly Texans. Texan slaves learned that the United States government freed them, officially ending slavery in Texas and the rest of the South. This holiday is not only for African Americans but also for all Americans. Celebrate freedom this Juneteenth.

When Was the First Juneteenth?

Celebrating Juneteenth in Texas in 1900

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

For Texans, Juneteenth has a special role in history. On this day in 1865, news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally arrived at the Port of Galveston, a full two years after President Lincoln signed it. Once General Gordon Granger read the order from the second-floor balcony of Ashton Villa in Galveston, the slaves officially became freemen. This news marked the first Juneteenth, which became a holiday of freedom for generations to come.

Why Did the Emancipation Proclamation Take So Long?

General_Order_No._3_-_Juneteenth_Memorial_Monument_-_Austin_Texas

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Though no one knows the real reason, many speculate why the news of the Emancipation Proclamation had such a long delay. Some think that the slower pace of news contributed to the problem. Though this may not be the case. Even in the time before telegraphs and telephones, one could travel across the country in less than two years.

Another reason may be that the Federal government lacked manpower in Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Until June 1865, the number of federal troops in Confederate states may not have been enough to enforce any federal laws because the South officially did not surrender until April 1865. After the war, federal troops would have had more freedom to expand their influence across the South, including in Texas.

Is Juneteenth an Official Holiday?

Emancipation Proclamation Memorial in Austin

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

If you live in Texas, June 19 has been a state holiday since 1980. Though some government workers report on this day, only those with critical government jobs must report for duty. This day is not an official federal holiday, but the United States government branches in Washington D.C. do commemorate Emancipation Day on April 16. This day in 1862, President Lincoln declared all slaves in the District of Colombia freed.

Why is Juneteenth Important Today?

Juneteenth Memorial at George Washington Carver Museum in Austin
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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