Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Happy Juneteenth

Jun 19 2013

On June 19th, 1865 a troop of Union soldiers came riding in to Galveston, Texas. The news they brought with them would not only change the state of Texas, but it would change the United States.

Major General Gordon Granger, USA
Commanding General, Department of Texas
To the people of Galveston and the State of Texas

 General Order 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. 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."

These words were the first taste of freedom that slaves had in Confederate Texas. Although President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect two years before, there were not enough Union troops in Texas to enforce the executive order. When General Granger arrived in Galveston with his men two months after the end of the Civil War, the last slaves in the United States were set free. Slaves in Texas began moving north towards freedom, or east to find family in other Southern states.

The day General Granger arrived in Texas was eventually celebrated as “Juneteenth.” For the past 148 years Americans across the nation have come together to celebrate Freedom. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

With the ushering in of the 20th century, interest in Juneteenth began to decline. However, it resurged with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. The holiday was officially recognized on June 19, 1980 thanks to the efforts of African-American Texas State Legislator Al Edwards.

Although not all states participate in Juneteenth celebrations, I am proud to say that Arkansas is one of the many that does. With celebrations across the state, Arkansans come together to honor the struggles of those who came before us. We come together to commemorate Arkansas’ diverse history. We come together to celebrate how far we have come as a state and as a nation; to challenge ourselves to keep moving forward. We come together united under one common theme: freedom. I hope you gather with others and celebrate and reflect on what this holiday means to all Arkansans and Americans. Happy Juneteenth!