By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
Friday, June 19 is the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, which marked the end of slavery in Texas. It occurred more than two months after the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Virginia effectively ended the Civil War. Just one month prior, the last battle of the Civil War occurred near Brownsville at the Battle of Palmito Ranch.
Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, along with the soldiers he led, landed in Galveston two and half years
after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which had little effect in Texas.
Once on land, however, Granger delivered General Order Number 3, which stated, “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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
Texas, then as now, and ever the enigma, did things its own way. Not only was the Rio Grande Valley the site of the last casualties and the last battle of the Civil War at Palmito Ranch, but Texas’ slave population remained
bound as such for another month after that.
Interestingly enough, prior to the war, then Governor Sam Houston — himself a slave owner — opposed Texas’ secession from the Union. His stance led to his eventual ouster from office after refusing to take an oath to the Confederacy. After his departure, Texas joined the rest of the Confederate States of America in seceding,
with many Texans — even those who previously opposed secession — fighting for the Confederate Army.
Upon hearing news of the proclamation many former slaves decided to embrace their newfound freedom.
That warm summer day, however, became a rallying point for celebration. Former slaves began to gather in
Galveston in the following years to commemorate the occasion.
Today, Juneteenth is celebrated across the country. And just this week, the United States Senate passed a
resolution recognizing June 19 as Juneteenth Independence Day. The resolution was introduced by Senators
John Cornyn (R-TX) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA). For more information on Juneteenth and the history surrounding
it, visit www.juneteenth.com.
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