AUSTIN, Texas—Juneteenth, June 19, the oldest black holiday in the nation, marks the anniversary of the end of slavery in Texas, the last state in which it survived. Juneteenth is one of the subjects spotlighted on the Web site of the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) with links to related articles in the Handbook of Texas Online.
President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued on Jan. 1, 1863, but had little impact in Texas, which was firmly under Confederate control during the Civil War. On June 19, 1865, after the Civil War was over, Union General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston and announced emancipation, which meant legal freedom for more than 250,000 slaves in Texas.
Granger’s General Order No. 3 began, “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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
The first broad celebrations of Juneteenth were used as political rallies and to teach freed African Americans about their voting rights. Within a short time, however, Juneteenth was marked by festivities throughout the state. In 1979, Rep. Al Edwards, D-Houston, introduced a bill calling for Juneteenth to become a state holiday. The legislature passed the act and it was signed into law. The first state-sponsored Juneteenth celebration took place in 1980.
TSHA, on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, has been bringing Texas history to the people of Texas and beyond since 1897. The New Handbook of Texas, an encyclopedia of Texas history, geography and culture that includes more than 23,000 articles, was published by TSHA to rave reviews in 1996. With the assistance of the General Libraries at the university it has been available for free on the Internet since 1999. For more information on Juneteenth and the vibrant history of African Americans in Texas, visit the Texas State Historical Association Web site and click on the Juneteenth article in the Spotlights section for links to related articles in the Handbook of Texas Online.