What Is Juneteenth All About?
"...that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
Three years into the American Civil War (1860-1865), President Lincoln abolished the very thing that started the war: slavery. Some will say the war wasn't fought over slavery. Those same people will say the rebel flag, carried into battle by Confederate soldiers, doesn't symbolize racism and bigotry.
The war was, in fact over, states' rights to own slaves, the wealth enjoyed due to forced human labor and the U.S. government's refusal to recognize the southern states (South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Florida) Declaration of the Causes of Secession. The southern states were never recognized as a sovereign nation, their economy was dependent solely upon slavery, and President Lincoln was a threat to that institution.
The South broke from the U.S. and formed the Confederate States of America and seceded immediately after Lincoln was elected in 1860. They elected President Jefferson Davis (1861-1865) who governed the Confederacy throughout the Civil War. Davis and the Confederate States were defeated in 1865. That same year, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce slavery was abolished to America's last slave.
Two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the slaves on Galveston Island finally got word they were free. Union Army General Gordon Granger assumed command of Texas soon after his arrival with 2,000 federal troops on June 18, 1865. His first order of business took place the very next day, on June 19, 1865, when he read General Order #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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection therefore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.
The rest is history. This is how the annual freedom day known as Juneteenth began. This sacred day is celebrated by African Americans and all Americans across the nation to this day! Next time you're in Texas, attend the iconic Galveston Texas Juneteenth Celebration, tour Ashton Villa at 2300 Broadway (believed to be where General Gordon read Order #3), and visit the site of the newly installed nine-feet tall bronze statue commemorating the freedom holiday.