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June 19th, 2024 · No Comments · City Library, Events, Library Closings, Library Hours, Main Branch, News, West Branch

June 19, 1865

Despite the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, it took two and half years for Americans enslaved in Galveston Texas to gain their freedom. This date, the 19th of June 1865, became a day of celebration, a second independence day.

The Thirteenth Amendment, which ended slavery in the United States, was not fully ratified until December 6, 1865. However, three years earlier, the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in all confederate controlled states. In the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order to declare that “all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free.”[i] The aforementioned ‘designated States’ excluded states and areas of rebellion the Union had already re-taken control over, such as Tennessee, or Union loyal states like Maryland and Delaware. The Proclamation was also dependent upon Union victory in the Civil War, but it sparked the path to total abolition, and the eventual passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Slaveholders in confederate controlled states saw no reason to abide by this proclamation, so many enslaved Americans were not granted freedom until the Union army arrived to enforce it. Such was the case in Galveston, Texas, when General Order No. 3 was decreed to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. This order was issued by Union General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, and hence freed the remaining enslaved Americans. The date became celebrated as a second independence day, the day all Americans became independent. Celebrations were limited to the South in early years, focusing on church gatherings or later food festivals. The Great Migration between 1910 and 1970 brought the celebration to the rest of the country, as six million African Americans moved north and west. Juneteenth did not become a Federal Holiday until 2021, but was recognized in various forms in all fifty states.

This June 19, while enjoying the Federal Holiday, take a moment to reflect on the history of this day. Celebrate the years America has come since then and recognize the distance still to be traversed before all Americans are truly equal.

To learn more, visit the display in the rotunda, or view a list of titles here:


Garrett-Scott, Shennette (2013). “When Peace Come”: Teaching the Significance of Juneteenth”. Black History Bulletin. 76 (2): 19–25. doi:10.1353/bhb.2013.0015.

Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863; Presidential Proclamations, 1791-1991; Record Group 11; General Records of the United States Government; National Archives. Accessed 6/12/2024

“What is Juneteenth—and how did it become a federal holiday?”. History and Culture Explainer. National Geographic. Accessed June 12, 2024. Archived from the original on June 19, 2023.

[i] Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863

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