By Erica Taylor, The Tom Joyner Morning Show
Today, June 19th, marks the Juneteenth holiday, which celebrates the day in 1865 that slaves in Galveston, Texas were told that slavery had ended. President Abraham Lincoln had actually ended slavery two and a half years prior to the Texas slaves being notified. Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger delivered the good news to those in captivity through General Orders No. 3 which stated:
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.
By command of Maj.-Gen. GRANGER.
F.W. EMERY, Major, and A.A.G.
COTTON TO BE SHIPPED TO NEW-ORLEANS OR NEW- YORK.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF TEXAS, GALVESTON, TEXAS, June 19, 1865.
Many legends were told in regards to why it took so long for the slaves in Texas to be informed about the end of the war. Some say that the messenger who was to deliver word that the Confederate lost the war was killed along the way. Others believed the plantation owners withheld the information, waiting for the next cotton harvest before saying a word. Unfortunately, there were written witness accounts of slaves who immediately tried to flee their plantations after receiving the news and were killed on sight or hung. Some slaves continued to work in servitude, undergoing the same punishments prior to the Emancipation Proclamation’s issuance or their knowledge of the decree.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition.
Today, people all over the country celebrate Juneteenth with rodeos, fishing, barbecues and picnics with an emphasis on education and self-improvement. Institutions such as the Smithsonian and the Henry Ford Museum have begun sponsoring Juneteenth-centered activities.