the battle is neither to the swift nor to the strong but to him that holds on to the end —Gordon Granger (described as a "short, peppery, profane disciplinarian not well-liked by his troops")
The Juneteenth Festival is the the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery and has been celebrated in East Palo Alto for the last 50 years. Today, Juneteenth commemorates African Freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. This event is free to everyone who attends, and through this celebration, we hope to continue development of community by joining hands to acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today.
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.
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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.
It should be noted that, because the Emancipation Proclamation applied only to the states that had seceded from the Union, the final surrender of the Confederacy did not end slavery altogether throughout the United States, as four slaveholding states—Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri—never left the Union, and slavery was also technically legal (though not widespread) in territories that make up the present states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Slaves in these states and territories did not receive their freedom until the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on December 6, 1865. Even so, December 6 is not known to be observed anywhere as marking the end of slavery.
Gordon Granger (1822 – 1876) was a Union Major General during American Civil War. Granger was born in Wayne County, New York in 1822. He attended West Point and graduated in 1845. During the Mexican War, he fought in Winfield Scott's Army. Between wars, he served on the frontier. His first fight in the Civil War was the Union defeat at Wilson's Creek, Missouri in August 1861.
Granger also declared that laws passed by the Confederate government were void, that Confederate soldiers were paroled, that all persons having public property, including cotton, should turn it in to the United States Army, and that all privately owned cotton was to be turned in to the army for compensation. He counseled blacks against congregating around towns and military posts, remaining unemployed, or expecting welfare; rather he advised them to remain on the plantations and to sign labor agreements with their former owners while awaiting further assistance from the Freedmen's Bureau, which had not yet been established in the state. For six weeks Granger took this message into the interior of the state. On August 6, 1865, he was relieved of his command and replaced by Gen. Horatio G. Wright.
Texas was the last frontier of slavery in the United States. In fewer than fifty years, from 1821 to 1865, the "Peculiar Institution," as Southerners called it, spread over the eastern two-fifths of the state. The rate of growth accelerated rapidly during the 1840s and 1850s. The rich soil of Texas held much of the future of slavery, and Texans knew it. James S. Mayfield undoubtedly spoke for many when he told the Constitutional Convention of 1845 that "the true policy and prosperity of this country depend upon the maintenance" of slavery.