Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom


A History of Juneteenth in Texas

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops present to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

From our collection: General Order 3 – The “Juneteenth” document

The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.


A Gallery of Juneteenth Images

  • Juneteenth Holiday | The event was made a Texas state holiday beginning in 1980. Its observance has spread to many other states. As of May 2013, 43 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or special day of observance.
  • Juneteenth Celebrations | Broadsheet poster advertising a 54th Anniversary of emancipation at Herman's Park, Ft. Worth , Texas, 1919. Image from DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.
  • Juneteenth Celebrations | Broadsheet poster advertising an Emancipation Anniversary barbecue hosted by O.C. Crook and speech by Hon. W. H. Ericcs.  Ft. Worth, Texas, 1919. Image from DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.
  • Juneteenth Celebrations | Broadsheet poster announcing a Ball hosted in Ft. Worth, Texas,  1919. Image from DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.
  • Juneteenth Celebrations | Juneteenth Picnic, oil painting by Dallas artist Arthello Beck, Jr. Image from the African American Museum
  • Juneteenth Celebrations | Carriage decorated with flowers for Juneteenth. Houston, Texas, ca. 1900. Image from the DHS Archives
  • Juneteenth Celebrations | Emancipation Day Celebration band, June 19, 1900. From the Portal to Texas History
  • The Juneteenth Document | General Order #3, which declared that all slaves were now free. This occurred two and a half years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Image from the DHS Archives
  • Gordon Granger | When the Civil War ended, Granger was given command of the District of Texas. On June 19, 1865 in the city of Galveston he declared the institution of slavery abolished in the state. Image from the DHS Archives

A History & Celebration of Juneteenth

On June 19, 2019 the Dallas Historical Society hosted Donald Payton and the South Dallas Concert Choir for a lecture and concert covering the history, impact and celebration of the Juneteenth holiday.

South Dallas Concert Choir performs I Get Joy
Arkansas-born swing musician Louis Jordan performs Juneteenth Jamboree

Related Articles

Let Freedom Ring

How Juneteenth Brought Emancipation to Enslaved People in Texas
By Michael Hurd, Texas Highways, June 2020

CLICK HERE to read this article

Juneteenth

By Teresa Palomo Acosta, Handbook of Texas Online, June 10, 2020

CLICK HERE to read this article


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