On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger went to Galveston, Texas. He spread the great news that the Civil War had ended. All slaves had been freed.

Shocked but Happy

After General Granger read General Order Number 3 announcing that all slaves were free, former slaves were shocked but very happy to hear the news. Some plantation owners tried to offer them jobs. Some lingered long enough to listen. Others left, eager to start a new life somewhere else. They celebrated their freedom.

First Celebrated in 1866

African Americans began an annual celebration to remember the day when everyone learned they were finally free. In the early years of celebrating Juneteenth, as it came to be called, people attended prayer services. Sometimes the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Confederate states on January 1, 1863, was read. Former slaves often spoke of their experiences.

They also celebrated with barbecues and drank red soda water. Parties included rodeos, baseball, fishing, games, and dances.

Official Holiday in Texas

Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth (June 19th) an official holiday and celebrated the day statewide in 1980.

Citizens in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, California, and Florida also celebrate Juneteenth.


– Sandra Merville Hart


“History of Juneteenth.” Juneteenth.com. 20 March 2013.  http://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm.

“Juneteenth.” TexasState Historical Association. 20 March 2013. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/lkj01.

“Juneteenth.” TexasState Library and Archives Commission. 21 March 2013. https://www.tsl.state.tx.us/ref/abouttx/juneteenth.html.

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