Historical Context Regarding the Juneteenth Celebration in the US

On June 19, 1865, Union Major-General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas and read General Orders No.3 to the people assembled in the town.

General Orders No. 3 stated:

"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."

In reality, almost two years earlier, the Emancipation Proclamation, an Executive Order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1863, granted freedom to all enslaved persons of African descent that resided within states that had seceded from the United States of America. Texas was one of the eleven that had broken away to form the Confederate States of America.

The Emancipation Proclamation stated and declared, in part, to:

"…. order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons ...."

Eleven Southern states seceded from the United States of America. South Carolina was the first to secede in December 1860. The remaining states to secede, listed in order of secession, were Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee, with all states seceding in 1861, beginning in January through June of that year. 

On June 2, 1865, the commander of Confederate forces west of the Mississippi River, General Edmund Kirby Smith, signed surrender terms offered by Union negotiators that officially brought an end to the four year Civil War. A little over two weeks later, Major General Granger rode into Galveston, Texas to read General Orders No. 3.

The expectation that the formerly enslaved would now be viewed, by those who formerly assumed ownership of those who found themselves in the previous state of enslavement, as employees by their former so called masters and would be given wages by these former masters was an overly hopeful, somewhat deluded expectation.

Today, Juneteenth, said to be a blending of the numeric date with the name of the month, is celebrated to commemorate the date when the citizens and formerly enslaved people of Galveston, Texas were informed of their freedom by use of an order issued, as stated in General Order No. 3, by the Executive of the United States on June 19, 1865, nearly two years after the Presidential Executive Order known as the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, 1863.