(FOX 2) - On the eve of the anniversary commemorating slaves receiving their freedom, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a proclamation that June 19 will be Juneteenth Celebration Day.
According to Juneteenth.com, June 19 is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Going all the way back to the end of the civil war in 1865, Union soldiers were led to Galveston, Texas by Major General Gordon Granger to deliver the news: The war is over, slaves are now free.
While this was two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it had little effect in Texas due to the lack of enforcement. Instead, Granger's arrival was more closely aligned with the surrender of General Lee in April.
The official beginning of Juneteenth in Michigan came when former "Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed legislation designating the third Saturday in June as Juneteenth National Freedom Day in Michigan."
Now, therefore, I, Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, do hereby proclaim June 19, 2019, as Juneteenth Celebration Day in Michigan. I encourage all citizens in the State of Michigan to participate in the Juneteenth Freedom Festival and celebrate African American history and culture, while continuing to promote diversity, equality, and a strong sense of community in our state.
Known as General Order Number 3, it was read to the people of Texas, beginning with the noteworthy statement:
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 herefore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.
There was a range of reactions to the statement. Varying from shock to excitement, many left the plantation immediately. Even with nowhere to go, many felt the logical decision was to leave their servitude. Some left for the north. Others reached out to family in neighboring states.
Over the years, the term Juneteenth would become synonymous with celebration and reassurance, with the city of Galveston becoming a site for many to pilgrimage to in honor of General Order Number 3.