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“Juneteenth” is a word that has been frequently seen and heard in the news recently. The term refers to June 19, 1865, when slaves in Texas learned belatedly that slavery had been abolished. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of September 22, 1862, effective on January 1, 1863, freed enslaved people in the 11 states of the Confederacy: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas. The Emancipation Proclamation applied only to enslaved people in the Confederate states, and not to those in border states that remained loyal to the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation had little effect in Texas, due to the presence of a minimal amount of Union troops to enforce the order. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the War of the Rebellion was over and enslaved people were now set free. The reaction of the slaves to the news ranged from shock to jubilation. The following year on June 19, the first official Juneteenth celebrations took place in Texas. The original observances included prayer meetings and singing, and participants often wore new clothes as a symbol of their newfound freedom. The celebration of June 19 grew over the years with more participation from residents in Texas and other states. The occasion was a time for family gatherings and picnics, religious services, speeches, educational events, and festivals with singing and dancing. On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official Texas state holiday.
From Jauflione Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution