On September 22nd, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which would go into effect on January 1st, 1863, making the act of slavery a crime in the United States. However, in more remote areas of the U.S., slavery remained intact, particularly in Texas.
On June 19th, 1865, Union forces descended on Galveston, Texas, bringing news of the Confederacy’s loss in the Civil War and that slavery was now illegal. At that time, Union General Gordon Granger made the following proclamation:
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.
According to Juneteenth.com, “The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.”