A Landmark Day for Civil Rights

President Lyndon Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

President Lyndon Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the signing of the Civil Rights Act. Image from the LBJ Presidential Library.

On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger stood on the balcony of a house in Galveston, Texas, and read out the text of General Order No. 3, informing the people of Texas of the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation. Annual celebration of Juneteenth (a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth”) began the next year; although celebration of the day declined in the early 20th century and was primarily centered in Texas, in more recent years recognition of the day has increased and spread. Juneteenth was officially recognized as a state holiday in Texas in 1980. Today, 43 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth through legislation.

The reading of General Order No. 3 is not the only significant event in civil rights history to occur on this day. 98 years after Maj. Gen. Granger read out the order, President Kennedy called for the passage of comprehensive civil rights legislation, and legislation that would later become the Civil Rights Act was introduced in Congress. Exactly one year later, on June 19, 1964, the Senate passed the Civil Rights Act (H.R.7152).

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