January 1, 1863, during the American Civil, President Abraham Lincoln issued The Emancipation Proclamation. It freed all those enslaved in the United States–almost. The document only applied to 3.1 million of the 4 million enslaved Africans slaves in the U.S. The Proclamation was based on the president’s war powers (constitutional authority as commander in chief of the armed forces). It lacked power because it had not been made law by Congress. Furthermore, it could not be enforced in areas still under rebellion and it did not grant citizenship to so-called “freedmen”.
emancipation there would come after separate state actions and/or the December 1865 ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which made slavery illegal everywhere in the U.S.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. It was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, by the House on January 31, 1865.
It was not unil June 19 (“Juneteenth”), 1865, that Union general Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and issued General Order Number 3, which read in part,
“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 news of freedom reached the 250,000 enslaved Africans slaves in Texas gradually over the months following the end of the war. The first group celebrations of Juneteenth were used as political rallies and to teach “freedmen” about their voting rights. It was not long, however, before organized festivities were held throughout the state.
Interest in Juneteenth has varied with time. As many as 30,000 African-Americans have celebrated the event at Booker T. Washington Park, in Texas’ Limestone county. The 1960s marked a decline in popularity of the event, while the 1970s witnessed renewed interest in the holiday. In 1979, the Texas Juneteenth state holiday was signed into law by Governor William P. Clements, Jr. The first state-sponsored celebration took place the following year.