Today, June 19th, marks the Juneteenth holiday, which celebrates the day in 1865 that slaves in Galveston, Texas found out that slavery had ended. President Abraham Lincoln had actually ended slavery two and a half years prior to the Texas slaves being notified. Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger delivered the good news to those in captivity.
Many legends were told in regards to why it took so long for the slaves in Texas to know about the end of the war. Some say the messenger that was to deliver word that the Confederate lost was killed on the way. Others believed the slave masters withheld the information, waiting for the next cotton harvest before saying a word.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African-American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition.
Today, many Texans celebrate Juneteenth with Rodeos, fishing, barbecues and picnics with an emphasis on education and self-improvement. Institutions such as the Smithsonian and the Henry Ford Museum have begun sponsoring Juneteenth-centered activities.