Back to top

Notes from the Archives: Juneteenth

June 19, 2017

On this day, in 1865, Union General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the inhabitants of Galveston, Texas, signaling the end of slavery in the United States of America. 

The order 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. “

In 1862, at the height of the Civil War,  President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation  abolished slavery in the Confederate States of America. It did not emancipate enslaved people in the four border states of Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware, or in Texas. In 1865, after the end of the Civil War, Congress passed a law abolishing slavery throughout the United States. General Granger's reading of General Order No. 3 on June 19, 1865, references this law and signaled the total emancipation of all enslaved people in the United States. Later that year, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, cementing the abolition of slavery in the United States.

Throughout 1865 and 1866, celebrations of emancipation broke out across the country. In Boston, the Board of Aldermen ordered that bells be rung on January 1, 1866 “in token of the rejoicing at the consummation of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Constitutional Amendment abolishing slavery in the United States.”

Order to ring bells in celebration of emancipation, 1865 December 30, Docket 1865-020-I, Proceedings of the City Council, Collection 0100.001, Boston City Archives

June Nineteenth, often referred to as Juneteenth, is widely celebrated as Emancipation Day in the United States.