Juneteenth – June 19, 1865, is considered to be the date the last slaves in America were freed.

The Civil War had ended with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865. Although the rumors of freedom were widespread even prior to this time, actual emancipation did not come to Texas until General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston and issued General Orders No.3 on June 19th. This was almost two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Didn’t the Emancipation Proclamation free the enslaved?
President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September2, 1862, notifying the states in rebellion against the Union that, if they did not sease their rebellion and return to the union by January1, 1863, he would declare their slaves forever free. The proclamation did not apply to those slaveholding states that had not rebelled against the Union. As a result, about 800,000 slaves were unaffected by the provisions of the proclamation.

The proclamation was ignored, of course, by those states that seceded from the Union. It would take a civil war to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. And it would take the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to formally outlaw slavery in the United States.

When is Juneteenth celebrated?
Annually, on June 19, Juneteenth is celebrated in more than 200 cities in the United States. Some cities sponsor week-long celebrations, culminating on June 19, while others hold shorter celebrations.

Why is Juneteenth celebrated?
It symbolized the end of slavery. Juneteenth has come to symbolize for many African Americans what the Fourth of July symbolizes for all Americans. Juneteenth serves as a historical milestone reminding Americans of the triumph of the human spirit over the cruelty of slavery. It honors those African American ancestors who survived the inhumane institution of bondage. It demonstrates pride in the marvelous legacy of endurance and perseverance they left us.

Why not just celebrate the Fourth of July like other Americans?
Blacks do celebrate the Fourth of July in honor of American Independence Day, but Juneteenth History reminds us that blacks were still enslaved when the United States obtained its independence.

Why were the slaves in Texas the last to know that they were free?
During the Civil War, texas did not experience any significant incursions by Union forces. Although the Union army made several attempts to invade Texas, they were thwarted by Confederate troops. As a result, slavery in Texas continued to thrive.

In fact, because slavery in Texas experienced such a minor interruption in its operation, many slave owners from other slaveholding states brought their slaves to Texas to wait out the war. News of the emancipation was suppressed due to the overwhelming influence of the slave owners.