As many know, today is Juneteenth, marking the day in 1865 that African-American slaves in Galveston, Texas were informed that they were free -- over two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth.org provides more background:
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger's regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. 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 news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All or none of them could be true. For whatever the reason, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.
As a celebration, Juneteenth ebbed and waned, but was revived for good during the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s. Due to the efforts of Al Edwards, an African-American legislator, Texas became the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday on January 1, 1980. Official and underground celebrations have now proliferated across the country.
How are you celebrating Juneteenth?