On June 19 ("Juneteenth"), 1865, Union general Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and issued General Order Number 3, which read in part, "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." The tidings of freedom reached the approximately 250,000 slaves in Texas gradually as individual plantation owners informed their bondsmen over the months following the end of the war. The news elicited an array of personal celebrations, some of which have been described in The Slave Narratives of Texas (1974). The first broader celebrations of Juneteenth were used as political rallies and to teach freed African American about their voting rights. Within a short time, however, Juneteenth was marked by festivities throughout the state, some of which were organized by official Juneteenth committees.
The day has been celebrated through formal thanksgiving ceremonies at which the hymn "Lift Every Voice" furnished the opening. In addition, public entertainment, picnics, and family reunions have often featured dramatic readings, pageants, parades, barbecues, and ball games. Blues festivals have also shaped the Juneteenth remembrance. In Limestone County, celebrants gather for a three-day reunion organized by the Nineteenth of June Organization. Some of the early emancipation festivities were relegated by city authorities to a town's outskirts; in time, however, black groups collected funds to purchase tracts of land for their celebrations, including Juneteenth. A common name for these sites was Emancipation Park. In Houston, for instance, a deed for a ten-acre site was signed in 1872, and in Austin the Travis County Emancipation Celebration Association acquired land for its Emancipation Park in the early 1900s; the Juneteenth event was later moved to Rosewood Park. In Limestone County the Nineteenth of June Association acquired thirty acres, which has since been reduced to twenty acres by the rising of Lake Mexia. Read more...
On this day in 1919, Texas Congressman Claude B. Hudspeth called Mexican president Venustiano Carranza "that spineless cactus of Mexico" on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Hudspeth, a vociferous supporter of American intervention in the Mexican Revolution, was defending Secretary of War Newton Baker's controversial decision to send troops into Juárez against Francisco (Pancho) Villa. Hudspeth, born in Medina in 1877, became editor and publisher of the Ozona Kicker as a teenager and had settled in El Paso by 1902. He was elected to Congress in 1918 and served until 1930, when he declined to run for renomination because of ill health. He died in San Antonio in 1941. Hudspeth County was named in his honor.
On this day in 1890, poet and ranchman Larry Chittenden's "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball" was first published in the Anson Texas Western. Chittenden, born in New Jersey in 1862, came to Texas in 1883 and established a ranch at the foot of Skinout Mountain near Anson. An annual Christmas dance at Anson's Star Hotel, which burned in 1890, inspired his best-known poem. It has been reprinted and anthologized many times since. John A. Lomax and his brother Alan published it in their book Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads in 1910. Chittenden, who moved to Bermuda in 1904, died in 1934, the same year the citizens of Anson staged the first annual Cowboys' Christmas Ball. The poem was set to music and sung at the Anson ball in 1946, and it became a tradition to have a soloist sing the ballad before the ball.
On this day in 1865, Union general Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation (originally issued by Abraham Lincoln in 1863) in Galveston, thus belatedly bringing about the freeing of 250,000 slaves in Texas. The event, now celebrated as "Juneteenth," eventually gave rise to an annual day of thanksgiving ceremonies, public entertainment, picnics, and family reunions. Some communities have set aside land, known as Emancipation Parks, for celebrations on Juneteenth. In 1979 Governor William P. Clements signed an act making the day a state holiday. The first state-sponsored Juneteenth celebration took place the next year.