Outline of Texas
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Black History in Texas
Dr. Juliet E. K. Walker
Professor, Department of History
Outline of Texas
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A holiday that began in Texas, marking the end of slavery in that state on June 19, 1865. 
The North defeated the South on April 9, 1865, which ended the Civil War. According to President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect on January 1, 1863, all slaves in the states of rebellion at that time were free. Consequently, with the end of the Civil War and the defeat of the South, slavery should have ended throughout the United States at that time.  This, however, was not the case in Texas. It was not until  June 19, 1865, when Union Major General Gordon Granger read General Order #3 to the people of Galveston which stated:

   " 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."

Then, so that the freedom of former slaves would not be challenged, in December, 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on December 6, 1865. It stated:

Section 1
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Yet, for former slaves in Texas, June 19, "Juneteenth," rather than the Thirteenth Amendment symbolized the end of slavery and the beginning of  freedom. Consequently, beginning in Reconstruction, emancipated slaves in Texas launched "emancipation day" celebrations on June 19; although, the first celebration in Austin, the state capital, that was held in 1867 was sponsored by the Freedman's Bureau. As the celebrations expanded in Texas, blacks purchased land that was used as parks to hold the Juneteenth celebrations. Before the end of the Nineteenth century, African Americans in adjacent states, such as  Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma also began holding "emancipation day celebrations, which expanded to other states, such as Alabama, Florida, and California, reflecting to a great extent the migration of Texas blacks.
The World War II era through the Civil Rights era marked a decline in Juneteenth Day celebrations. Beginning in the mid-1970s, however, interest in reviving the celebration began. In Texas a bill was passed in 1979 that officially established June 19 as a legal state holiday to be known officially as  "Emancipation Day," The law went into effect January 1, 1980. Since that time, Juneteenth celebrations have increased in numbers throughout the United States.

The bill that established Juneteenth "Emancipation Day" as an official state holiday was submitted by Representative Al Edwards (Houston,) and sponsored by Senator Chet Brooks (Pasadena).
The bill was officially entitled, House Bill 1016, 66th Legislature Regular Session, Chapter 481, and stated:.

AN ACT relating to a declaration of Emancipation Day in Texas as a legal holiday
Article 4591, Revised Civil Statutes of Texas, 1925, as amended, is amended to read as follows:
Art. 4591. ENUMERATION. The first day of January, the 19th day of January, the third Monday in February, the second day of March, the 21st day of April, the last Monday in May, the 19th day of June, the fourth day of July, the 27th day of August, the first Monday in September, the second Monday in October, the 11th day of November, the fourth Thursday in November, and the 25th day of December, of each year, and every day on which an election is held throughout the state, are declared legal holidays, on which all public offices of the state may be closed and shall be considered and treated as Sunday for all purposes regarding the presenting for the payment or acceptance and of protesting for and giving notice of the dishonor of bills of exchange, bank checks and promissory notes placed by law upon the footing of bills of exchange.
The nineteenth day of January shall be known as "Confederate Heroes Day" in honor of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and other Confederate heroes.
The 19th day of June is designated "Emancipation Day in Texas" in honor of the emancipation of the slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865.
       Signed by Governor William Clements June 7, 1979; effective January 1, 1980.

By the end of 2000 African Americans in more than thirty states had initiated programs and festivities in celebration of Juneteenth Day

Online Sources:
Texas Juneteenth History
Texas State Library and Archives
World Wide Celebrations
Black History/Festivities
Black Church and Juneteenth
Government Documents
Texas State Holiday
African American Holiday

Randolph B. Campbell, "The End of Slavery in Texas: A Research Note," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 88 (July 1984).

Ralph Ellison, Juneteenth: A Novel (New York: Random House, 1999).

William H. Wiggins, Jr., O Freedom! Afro-American Emancipation Celebrations (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987).

"Juneteenth," Vertical Files, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin.
Children's Books (http://www.chumpchange.com/Juneteenth/Bibliography.htm)

Underconstruction animated gif

Last Modified: March 15, 2003