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On Texas Time

On June 19, 1865, Major Gen. Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and slavery was abolished – two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Runaway slave / Bernarda Bryson. 1935. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-DIG-ppmsca-06790 (digital file from original drawing); Call No.: Unprocessed in PR 13 CN 1997:101 [item] [P&P] Emancipation of the Slaves, proclamed [sic] on the 22nd September 1862, by Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of North America. ca. 1862. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction Nos.: LC-DIG-ppmsca-19391 (digital file from original item), LC-USZ62-1287 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: PGA - Waeshle, J.--Emancipation of... (B size) [P&P]

Pres. Abraham Lincoln’s edict had little impact on the people of Texas, since there was few Union troops around at the time to enforce it. But, with the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee in April 1865 and the arrival of Gen. Gordon Granger’s regiment in Galveston, troops were finally strong enough enforce the executive order. Newly freed men rejoiced, originating the annual "Juneteenth" celebration, which commemorates the freeing of the slaves in Texas.

So, why the two-and-a-half year delay? Some possible explanations include a murdered messenger, the deliberate withholding of news by plantation owners, and that federal troops actually waited so that slave owners could benefit from one last cotton harvest.

The Library’s “Voices from the Days of Slavery” presentation contains several interviews with former Texas slaves.

The Library’s collections are particularly wealthy in resources regarding African-American history and slavery, including photographs, documents and sound recordings. This web guide is a good place to start.