President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863. However, it was two and a half years later before Texas slaves got the message when Union Major General Gordon Granger issued the order in Galveston, “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.” It was June 19, 1865 establishing the basis for the holiday, “Juneteenth” (“June” plus “nineteenth”), today the most popular annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States.
For years, Juneteenth has been recognized with some form of observance in almost every state. On June 15, 2021 the Senate unanimously approved a bill to make Juneteenth a legal public holiday. The next day, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the bill. Then on June 17, President Joe Biden signed into law legislation establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a U.S. federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
Below are just three related examples of Juneteenth and celebrations from the DeGolyer collections. To see hundreds more images from our collections that document the African American experience, follow this link: https://digitalcollections.smu.edu/digital/search/collection/civ!dgl!jtx!tex!wes!gcd!jmm/searchterm/african%20americans/field/all/mode/all/conn/all/order/date/ad/asc/page/1 And to pursue projects in African American history in greater depth, we encourage researchers to visit the DeGolyer Library in person!
Union Major General Gordon Granger, 1865
Emancipation Day, 1913, Corpus Christi, Texas
Emancipation Celebration, June 19, 1913
54th Anniversary Emancipation Proclamation, 1865-1919
By Anne E. Peterson, Curator of Photographs, DeGolyer Library