June 19, 2012 1:01 pm
Today is Juneteenth! That’s the day we solemnly remember one of the greatest horrors in American history, or not, since it’s not an official holiday.
Although Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it didn’t impact slaves in Texas for more than two years, until June 19, 1865. As Kenneth C. Davis wrote last year for Smithsonian,
The westernmost of the Confederate states, Texas did not get news of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomatox that April until two months after the fact. But they heard once Union Gen. Gordon Granger, a New Yorker and West Point graduate with a distinguished wartime service record, arrived in Galveston Bay with more than 2,000 Union troops. It was on June 19 that he publicly read General Order No. 3, which began: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating that day, was celebrated for years before losing popularity. But recently there’s been a revival. It’s not a national holiday yet, but Texas’ senators are introducing a measure today that would change that. The country wouldn’t shut down as it does on the Fourth of July, but the holiday would be officially recognized by the federal government.
More from Smithsonian.com: Juneteenth: A New Birth of Freedom
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