Today is Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union army general Gordon Granger arrived with 2,000 soldiers in Galveston to deliver this 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.
The event came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation and more than three months after the end of the American Civil War.
Cato Carter, pictured above, was a former slave who lived in Oak Cliff and was interviewed by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. He lived in Alabama when the Emancipation Proclamation came down, and he tells that many slave holders moved their operations to Texas where slavery was still legal. You can read his full narrative here.
The holiday was commemorated privately for many years after that because of Black Codes that restricted the movements of African Americans. Private celebrations continued throughout Jim Crow because there were so few places where African Americans were allowed to be.
In Dallas, Juneteenth was often celebrated at professional-league baseball games.
Juneteenth began to enter the mainstream all over the United States in the 1960s because of the Civil Rights movement, the New York Times reports. The holiday also became more popular after the Los Angeles riots in 1992.
Here we are at another pivotal moment in the history of human rights in America, and Juneteenth is again spreading in popularity. President Trump had planned a campaign rally in Tulsa, the site of a 1921 race massacre, on Juneteenth this year. Trump pushed the rally to Saturday but also now thinks he invented Juneteenth.
Texans have been celebrating Juneteenth since 1866, and it spread as Texans moved to other places across the country. Opal Lee of Fort Worth has been advocating to make Juneteenth a national holiday for 40 years.
Juneteenth was sometimes mentioned in newspaper stories from 1930 and ’40s as “the negro holiday,” but it’s a holiday that everyone should celebrate.