JUNE 19, 1865

Credit: Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued two years earlier, it wasn’t until this date — two months after the Civil War ended — that all those enslaved in Texas learned they were free. 

Union Gen. Gordon Granger delivered the news to those enslaved in Galveston that the Civil War had ended: 

“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.” 

His announcement put the Emancipation Proclamation into effect. The news set off celebrations and continued to be remembered in the years that followed. The day became known as “Juneteenth,” which became a legal state holiday in Texas in 1980. In 2021, Juneteenth, also known as “Freedom Day,” became a national holiday.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.

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