Though President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation officially freeing slaves two years before in 1863, Texas resisted the order until Union soldiers, led by Major General Gorden Granger, marched into Galveston, Texas and announced that all enslaved citizens were free.
In “General Order No. 3,” General Granger read:
"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."
A portmanteau of the words “June” and “nineteenth,” Juneteenth is also known as African American Independence Day and has been an official state holiday in Texas since 1890.
Though many communities across the United States already celebrate Juneteenth with barbeques, music, parades and prayer services, National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign founder, Ronald V. Myers Sr., hopes it will one day receive official national recognition.
"The annual observance of Juneteenth provides America with the greatest opportunity to bring about a constructive resolution to the history of the brutal enslavement of Americans of African descent and the racial conflicts that plague the nation,” Myers said in a release.
According to the Houston Chronicle, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, intends to propose a measure officially recognizing June 19 as Juneteenth Independence Day.
"By observing this day, our nation will honor the role that Juneteenth has played in African American culture in Texas and throughout the country, and it will remind us that, in America, we are all blessed to live in freedom," Sen. Hutchison said.
Juneteeth Independance Day would be celebrated in a manner similar to Flag Day, in which government offices would observe the day but not close.
Forty-one out of 50 states have already passed bills observing Juneteenth.