On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The document declared that as of January 1, 1863, all enslaved people in the confederacy “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” The Emancipation Proclamation only freed the slaves in the confederacy, not in any states that remained loyal to the United States, but the document signified a shift in the war. It was no longer just about preserving the United States, it was about ending slavery.
It wouldn’t be until April 9, 1865, that the Civil War would end. It would be another two months before the news finally reached Texas. On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, U.S. General Gordon Granger and Union troops reached Texas. General Granger read General Orders No. 3 “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
It would still take some time before news reached the entire state, and all enslaved people were finally freed, but Juneteenth became a holiday to celebrate this momentous occasion.
Juneteenth does not celebrate the day slavery ended, the 13th amendment was passed by Congress on January 1, 1865, and was ratified by the required states in December 6, 1865. The amendment was proclaimed on December 18, signifying the end of slavery (a notable exception being people who are imprisoned, the 13th amendment states that forced servitude can be punishement for a crime).
It wouldn’t be until June 17, 2021, that Juneteenth would become a federal holiday. Many states recognized the holiday sooner, and a few made Juneteenth a state holiday. Juneteenth continues to be celebrated, not as the end of slavery, but as the day when enslaved people in the state of Texas could finally celebrate their freedom.