Library Blog

Juneteenth Celebration


Juneteenth, short for June 19th, is a holiday celebrating the effective end of slavery.  On June 19th, 1865 two months after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, Major General Gordon Granger led Union troops into Galveston, Texas to take control of the state.  Granger and his troops were there to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation through the announcement of General Orders Number 3, which declared:

“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.” 
Gates, Henry Louis.  “What is Juneteenth?” PBS, Accessed 9, June, 2020

Two years previous, President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 declaring all enslaved people in Confederate states “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”  This did not immediately free all slaves, however, as it only applied to places under Confederate control.  This did not include slave-holding border states or rebel areas already under Union control. This slowly began to change as Northern troops advanced into the Confederate South allowing many slaves to flee behind Union lines.
Nix, Elizabeth.  “What is Juneteenth?” History, 31 Aug 2015,  Accessed 9, June, 2020

As might be expected, General Orders No. 3 did not have the immediate effect of wiping out slavery in Texas.  Slave owners had been migrating to Texas since 1862 from Louisiana and Mississippi to escape the advancing Union army.  News delays and feet dragging were common, resulting in many slaves who had technically been freed remaining oblivious and working for their masters until government intervention arrived.

Defying the rampant delay, terror and violence accompanying the Emancipation Proclamation, the newly “freed” black men and women of Texas, with the aid of the Freedmen’s Bureau, now had a date to rally around.  Through an impressive grassroots effort these men and women transformed June 19 from a day of ignored military orders into their own annual rite, “Juneteenth,” beginning one year later in 1866.

For more information on the history of Juneteenth and its meaning, click on the following links:

Traditional Juneteenth Recipes:

E books:

Books available to be put on hold: