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  • Robert Marshall, D.Min.

Juneteenth: A Celebration for all God's People


Juneteenth harkens back to June 19, 1865, the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved Black people would be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.


President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. The proclamation established that all enslaved Black people, remaining in rebellious Confederate states against the Union, “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”


The reality about the Emancipation Proclamation was that it didn’t instantly free enslaved Blacks. It only applied to places under Confederate control, not to slave-holding border states or rebel areas already under Union control. Consequently, as Northern troops advanced into the Confederate South, many enslaved people fled behind Union lines.


In the absence of the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery remained relatively unaffected in Texas — until U.S. Gen. Gordon Granger stood on Texas soil and read General Orders, No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”


Because Texas was viewed as a haven for slavery, slavery had continued to flourish in the state. To understand why Texas remained unaffected by the newly enacted proclamation for so long, one needs to look no further than the lack of a significant presence of Union troops. As a result, many enslavers from outside the Lone Star State moved there.


Gen. Granger’s arrival in Galveston demonstrates the weight and authority this document carried everywhere it was presented. It single-handedly signaled freedom for 250,000 former Texan slaves, just as it had brought about previously for some 4 million slaves in 1863. Even though the war had concluded that June, emancipation didn’t happen overnight for everyone. In some cases, enslavers withheld the information until after harvest season. When word of Granger’s announcement spread, celebrations broke out among newly freed Blacks, and Juneteenth was born.


To read Dr. Marshall's full article, click here.

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