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The little-known key role played by a NY native in Juneteenth


President Joe Biden is expected to sign a bill that makes Juneteenth a federal holiday, after the House of Representatives and Senate both approved the measure. What may not be known is the role a native New Yorker played in Juneteenth's history.

Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865, when enslaved people in Texas were freed under the Emancipation Proclamation. President Abrham Lincoln actually signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier, but it took a while for the news to spread.

Texas was the last state to free its enslaved residents -- and it was a New York native who ordered the change.

Gordon Granger was born in the hamlet of Joy, southwest of Sodus, in November 1821. His mother later died while giving birth to a daughter and Granger was raised by his paternal grandfather in Phelps.

Granger was a school teacher in North Rose before starting his military career at West Point. He moved through the ranks of Union Army, ultimately becoming a general and Civil War hero.

On June 10, 1865, Gordon Granger was given command of the Department of Texas. Nine days later, as one of his first official acts in that role, Granger published 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. 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 freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

Bruce Farrington of the Sodus Historical Society said efforts are underway to erect a marker detailing Granger’s role in history.

“Hard to believe its 2021,” he said, “and no marker has even been erected and that’s one reason so few people know about his story and his significance in history.”

General Granger died at his post of duty in Santa Fe, NM on January 2, 1876.

Click on the LISTEN link below to hear the interview with Farrington.

New York made Juneteenth an official state holiday in October of 2020. Earlier, in June, Buffalo made Juneteenth a civic holiday, allowing city employees a paid day off.

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