On June 19, 1865, over 2,000 Union solders landed at Galveston, Texas, and Major General Gordon Granger provided the above words. It was then, over two years *after* the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln, that slaves in Texas finally learned of their freedom. Before then, not enough Union troops had been present in Texas to enforce Lincoln’s proclamation and executive order. But when General Lee surrendered in April 1865 and, over two months later, troops arrived on the shores of Galveston, the proclamation could finally be enforced.
When Major General Granger issued the words, it is estimated that near 250,000 slaves lived in Texas. Many had been moved from nearby states in order for their owners to avoid emancipation. These 250,000 people made up a third of Texas’s total population. So yes, June 19, 1865 is an important day to remember, to celebrate, and to learn about. Slavery did not end overnight. But June 19, 1865 was the start of freedom. The strive for equality and justice have continued since then and still continue.
Over the past 155 years, celebrations of the day have varied. Through the efforts of state legislator Al Edwards, Texas declared Juneteenth a legal state holiday when Texas House Bill 1016 passed in the 66th legislature. (State employees are given a day off *if the 19th of June falls on a weekday.*) The day was declared “Emancipation Day,” and observance began in 1980. McCreary Law Office will, starting today, add the day to its list of paid holidays.
This year, recognition of the day is particularly poignant and important. Countless books, films, and media resources are available to learn more so we all might reflect more. But let us not forget that this year too, as every year should be, the day is still a day to be jubilant and celebratory.
© 2020 McCreary Law Office, PLLC