President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became effective on January 1st 1863, but it meant little to the slaves in the Confederate states. This was true for the African Americans living in bondage in Texas. On June 18th 1865 Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with 2,000 troops to reinstate Federal law and control.
Standing on the balcony of Ashton Villa in Galveston on June 19th 1865, Granger read General Order Number 3, “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.” The former slaves took to the streets of Galveston in celebration.
The next year on June 19th 1866 the celebration known as Juneteenth began in Texas.