Juneteenth! Why Did it Take So Long for Enslaved Texans to be Free?

The name of the holiday Juneteenth is a holiday with the words “June” and “nineteenth”. Two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Union Major-General Gordon Granger read an order to the slaves that were still in bondage in Galveston, Texas that stated “From the executive of the United States, all slaves are free”. The date was June 19th, 1865.

Why had it taken so long for the slaves of Galveston to find out about their freedom? The Union Army was not in control of Texas, and some of those who were in power deliberately withheld the information of the emancipation in order to keep their economic rewards of slave labor.

-Not all Black Texans were Immediately Free:

According to some accounts, there were people who continued to be enslaved up to 6 years after Gordon Granger’s reading of the proclamation. Although almost all of those who had been enslaved were eventually “freed”, Black people in Texas as well as other states and territories had no rights and still faced violence, impoverishment, and discrimination.

(Note: A significant number of Mexicans and Native Americans in the Southwest who were enslaved were not freed immediately after Granger’s order but were later on).

Juneteenth celebration and march through Uptown

-It Was Not The Only Time! Whites Have NOT Followed Laws That Were Supposed to Benefit Black Communities:

Many times throughout U.S. history, even when a law has been passed that was supposed to benefit Blacks (in this case, an important proclamation about freedom), it was not carried out in a timely manner or was not followed as intended–if it was followed at all–by the whites in charge.

-Juneteenth Becomes a National Holiday:

Every year, Juneteenth celebrations are held across the country. Six states (including Texas) have made the state an official holiday, and all but three recognize it in some fashion. However, it wasn’t until the recent George Floyd killing and the Black Lives Matter movement did Congress pass a resolution establishing June 19th as a national holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The measure was signed by President Joe Biden in 2021.

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