Juneteenth Is for Everyone

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tags: Confederacy, Confederate flag, Juneteenth



Kenneth C. Davis is the author, most recently, of “The Hidden History of America at War: Untold Tales from Yorktown to Fallujah.”

SOME two months after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, effectively ending the Civil War, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger steamed into the port of Galveston, Tex. With 1,800 Union soldiers, including a contingent of United States Colored Troops, Granger was there to establish martial law over the westernmost state in the defeated Confederacy.

On June 19, two days after his arrival and 150 years ago today, Granger stood on the balcony of a building in downtown Galveston and read General Order No. 3 to the assembled crowd below. “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” he pronounced.

This was the first time many in the crowd had learned of the Emancipation Proclamation, which President Lincoln had issued two and a half years before. White slaveholders had suppressed the news of the decree freeing the slaves in Confederate territory not under Union control.

“We all walked down the road singing and shouting to beat the band,” a Texas freedwoman recounted. “Black men pitched their hats high in the muggy June air,” according to another report. “Men and women screamed ‘We’s free! We’s free!’ ” Others left town, in what became known as “the scatter.”




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