President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, to become effective on January 1st, of the following year. He declared all slaves would be free, and no longer owned by another person. However, it had very little effect in the Confederate States, including Texas. General Gordon Granger and 2,000 troops arrived on the island of Galveston, TX on June 18th, 1865 to take custody of the state, and to emancipate all slaves.

On June 19th he stood on the balcony of Ashton Villa and read this:

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 freed men 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.

African Americans rejoiced in the streets of Galveston that day, and Juneteenth celebrations began the next year. Across Texas the freed people came together and purchased large areas just for June 19th festivities. The Emancipation Park in Austin is one of them. However, when the economy declined many black families had to leave the farms and look for work in cities and their new employers weren’t willing to give them time off for Juneteenth. It wasn’t until recent years that it has become a well known celebration and acknowledged across the states. As recent as the 1980’s and into the 1990’s it has had an increase in interest. In fact, organizations like the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation are working towards making Juneteenth a national day of observance.

So, today is definitely a day that we all should recognize as a huge part of our history. One that should be embraced and celebrated!