Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States, originated in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, commemorating African American Emancipation Day on June 19. It is important to note that this holiday was observed two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863.
Despite the Emancipation Proclamation, black people remained enslaved in Texas due to the limited number of Union soldiers. However, Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers who landed in Galveston, Texas, and announced that the war had ended and the enslaved were now free.
General Order Number 3
General Granger’s first order of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3, which began most significantly with:
“The people of Texas are informed that following a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all enslaved are free. This proclamation involves an absolute equality of property rights between former enslavers and enslaved people, and the connection between employer and hired laborer.”
The news was met with disbelief and joy and many reactions. Some enslaved people stayed to try and understand the new employer-employee relationship, while others left without considering any offers from their former masters. The North was a popular destination for those seeking freedom, but many wanted to reunite with their families in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
There have been several attempts to clarify why there was a two-and-a-half-year lag in issuing the news of this executive order, and over the years, there have been various versions told and below are a few:
- Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom.
- Another is that the enslavers intentionally withheld the news to maintain the labor force on the plantations.
- Still, another is that federal troops waited for the enslavers to obtain the benefits of one last harvest before going to Texas to enforce the executive order.
Verifying these stories is impossible, but we know that situations persisted beyond what was legally allowed.
AIS Network and Juneteenth
Since June 19, 2020, AIS Network has officially declared Juneteenth a paid company holiday. It is truly inspiring to work for a company that acknowledges the significance of this day, which serves as a reminder of the enslaved black people who learned about their freedom. As a black woman, I can attest to not feeling fully supported in previous workplaces and feeling unheard. We all desire to be part of a team that embraces and accepts everyone for who they are, and I am grateful to be part of such a team.
Amidst the unrest caused by the death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared Juneteenth a permanent statewide paid holiday on October 13, 2020. He had initially proposed the idea during the June protests and followed through with the paid holiday that same month. Since then, Juneteenth is now a federal holiday in Virginia.
I hope that more companies will recognize the significance of this holiday as it continues to be embraced by the nation and take the time to learn and understand its importance.
Ashley DeJesus Marketing/Sales Manager