Even though President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed the more than 3.5 million enslaved Black Americans in the Confederate states on Jan. 1, 1863, the executive order did not reach Galveston, Texas, until two and half years later.
On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston to free the slaves there, finally ending slavery in the United States. He delivered the following General Order No. 3:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
On Jan. 1, 1980, Texas made June 19 a state holiday, the first state to do so. Since then, 45 states and Washington, D.C., have recognized the date as a state holiday.