On June 19th, 1865, Union Army Major General Gordon Granger issued an order that 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.
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.”
This proclamation came two months after the formal end of the Civil War, and two and a half years after The Emancipation Proclamation. And while General Granger did not know it at the time, this proclamation, and the date it was declared, would go on to become the most popular annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States.
We explore this often-overlooked piece of history with Jarrett Eady, he is Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Lee School District, and a board member of the Lee County Black History Society, which will be marking Juneteenth this Saturday in Fort Myers; and Dr. Jeffrey Fortney, Assistant Professor of History at Florida Gulf Coast University.