Juneteenth: The Celebration of a New Freedom in America
Written by Billy R. Glasco, Jr., archivist at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum
On the morning of June 19, 1865 Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with General Order, General Order No. 3 stated:
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. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
There had been several general orders carried out throughout the South prior to General Order No. 3, but what makes this announcement different is that there were no distractions. There were no more battles. The Confederacy had been defeated and the war was over. Although Granger implemented the order over two months after the end of the war, when the new freedmen and freedwomen in Galveston heard the proclamation aloud, they knew freedom was finally a reality.
Granger and his 2,000 troops continued to circulate and reprint General Order No. 3 throughout the Texas Gulf Coast and East Texas where the most concentrated population (forty percent) of Blacks were at the end of the Civil War. Although General Order No. 3 was met with reluctance, most slaveholders began to release their former slaves during the latter part of 1865. After receiving the news of their freedom, new freed Blacks began migrating to major cities in Texas and established “Freedman’s Towns”. Areas such as Freedman’s Town in Houston’s Fourth Ward (NAID 40972374), Tenth Street Freedman’s Town in Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood, Ellis Alley on San Antonio’s Near East Side, and Wheatville in Austin became principal sites for Juneteenth celebrations and the foundation for African American culture in Texas. Source: National Archives