Monday marks the 157th anniversary of Juneteenth, which was officially declared a federal holiday in 2021. Rawle & Henderson will be closed on Monday in honor of the holiday.
Juneteenth acknowledges the date June 19, 1865, when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Galveston, Texas, more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the order. Word of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865 had not reached the nearly 250,000 enslaved people of Texas. And they were never told that the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery, was in the process of being ratified by the states (27 out of 36 states did so).
President Lincoln knew he would have to send soldiers to Texas to enforce the law. Thus Major General Gordon Granger, Commanding Officer, District of Texas, arrived in Galveston on June 19, with 2000 soldiers.
The XXV Army Corps of the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT), with 30,000-35,000 soldiers of freedmen and recently liberated enslaved people, also arrived in Galveston on June 18, 1865. They were to become the Army guarding against Napoleon III’s French troops as well as watching for any resurgent Confederate activity.
Major General Granger held a public ceremony and read to the citizens of Galveston General Orders, No. 3.
GENERAL ORDERS, NUMBER 3
“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 Juneteenth holiday provides a moment of collective reflection and celebration of the current and historical achievements of Black Americans to this country. It is a day to celebrate Black history, culture, arts, activism and empowerment. Juneteenth is a reminder of our past but also an opportunity and invitation to recommit ourselves as lawyers, people and citizens of our communities to respect other people and cultures.
Rawle & Henderson is the oldest law firm in the country. We are a law firm founded in the Quaker tradition by a person who was integrally involved in the abolition movement. Monday is an opportunity for us as lawyers and citizens of our communities to make the promise of America, the rights which we all possess and the rule of law apply equally and without bias for all.
In honor of Juneteenth Rawle & Henderson’s offices will be closed for business.