‘The people of Texas are informed that … all slaves are free’ 

‘The people of Texas are informed that … all slaves are free’ 

In April 1865, the Civil War effectively ended with Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to Union Gen. Ulysses S, Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia. But the end of the war – nor President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation issued nearly three years earlier, declaring all slaves in the Confederacy as free citizens – didn’t bring and to slavery in Texas, the westernmost Confederate state.

Slavery continued there until Jun 19, 1865, when more than 2,000 Union troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, the Commanding Officer of the District of Texas.

With Granger and his troops came General Orders, No. 3, which read:

“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.”

June 19 was celebrated by freed Black Americans in Texas as Emancipation Day or Jubilee Day as early as 1866. In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday, and in June 2021, Congress passed a resolution – signed into law by President Biden on June 17, 2021 – establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.

Juneteenth commemorations already have taken place this year and will continue through the week. In Alton, Ill., American Legion Post 354 took part in the 33rd annual Juneteenth celebration, which featured Legionnaire and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth as the special guest. Hundreds attended the event, which included barbecue provided by Post 254.

“Juneteenth for me is about the history of this country, what Black veterans like me have contributed to this country,” said Post 354 Legionnaire Earl Watts, who was manning a grill at the event.  

American Legion posts taking part in or hosting Juneteenth celebrates are encouraged to share their stories and photos on Legiontown.