Though Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in the autumn of 1862, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that the full emancipation was completed. General Gordon Granger announced General Order #3, officially freeing America’s final enslaved people when he arrived in Galveston, Texas. Several theories attempt to explain why the announcement didn’t make its way to Texas and Galveston especially. Some of these theories include:
- Someone killed the messenger en route
- Enslavers didn’t pass along the information
- It kept getting delayed to give extra time for crop harvesting
Texas was well-positioned during the war. There were no significant invasions from the Union Army, so operations weren’t interrupted. Some enslavers fled to the state to wait out the war.
In the years following June 19th, known now as Juneteenth, many formerly enslaved people traveled back to Galveston to celebrate with parades, rodeos, baseball, and more. Over the first few years, the United States saw black history milestones unlike they’d never seen before. Reverend Jack Yates fundraised to be one of the first recorded African-American land purchasers. He purchased Emancipation Park in Houston, TX, for $1,000. And in Mexia, TX, a local Juneteenth organization bought Booker T. Washington Park that has hosted celebrations since 1898. It was the largest celebration at one point—more than 20,000 people would travel there over a week.
It wasn’t until 1980 that Juneteenth became an official Texas holiday. The commemoration of the day has ebbed and flowed over the years, with the majority of Americans not knowing the holiday even existed. There has become a resurgence of appreciation for the holiday in the early 2020s. We’re proud to offer the 2006 flag design in honor of Juneteenth.