Juneteenth: a reminder that change comes slowly


This is where Granger is said to have read his proclamation on June 18.

Today is Juneteenth, the commemoration of the actual emancipation of slaves in Texas and other parts of the South on June 18 and 19 in 1865, which came considerably later than the official end to slavery (January 1, 1863). On June 18, Union General Gordon Granger and his troops came to Galveston, Texas, to enforce emancipation. According to legend, Granger stood on the balcony of one of Galveston’s grand houses and read the following: 

“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.

Interesting choice of words. The emancipated slaves, however limited the real change in their lives, did not “remain quietly” at home but had some considerable celebrations. Their world didn’t shift much as most remained de facto slaves. But there was the promise of something better, even if it would take another hundred years to come.

The naming of the celebration Juneteenth is a bit of linguistic playfulness combining June and nineteenth.


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