Video of Dr. Shennette Garrett-Scott presenting the history and background of Juneteenth on Wednesday, June 19, 2013, at the Allen Public Library. Her program traces the history of Juneteenth events from the late nineteenth century freedmen colonys” and settlements’ celebrations to the present community events.

On June 17, 2021, Juneteenth, June 19, became an officially recognized federal holiday. The Library of Congress states,

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the date Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and delivered General Order No. 3 announcing the end of legalized slavery in Texas. Historically, it has been a holiday celebrated by people of African descent in the United States, as well as people in Canada, Jamaica, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and other countries throughout the world. Juneteenth is also a “symbolic date” representing the African American struggle for freedom and equality, and a celebration of family and community.

General Order No. 3, delivered by Major General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865 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.

General Orders, No. 3

General Orders, No. 3. Dallas Herald (Dallas, Tex.), July 01, 1865, Image 2, col. 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Serial & Government Publications Division (Library of Congress)

The National Archives observes that,

While the order was critical to expanding freedom to enslaved people, the racist language used in the last sentences foreshadowed that the fight for equal rights would continue.

Why was General Order, No. 3 needed when the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued more than two years before?

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863–more than two and a half years before General Order No. 3. Even so, many African Americans remained enslaved throughout Confederate and border slave states. “Many plantation owners refused to acknowledge that the war was over and refused to “release” their enslaved workers from bondage. This practice continued even after the issuance of General Order No. 3.” (Library of Congress)

Texas officially recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday on January 1, 1980

Along with Texas, more than 40 states officially observed Juneteenth before it became a federal holiday in 2021.

Historians have observed that Juneteenth remains significant because it is one of the earliest continuously observed holidays that African Americans established in the United States; it signifies for the African American population that America is the land of the free and that the fight for equality is ever present and ongoing. (Library of Congress)