Juneteenth is the newest federal holiday, having been declared by President Biden in 2021, and it celebrates the end of slavery in the US. It marks the day, June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, and just over two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, when the people of Texas learned that they were all free under the laws of the United States of America.

Major General Granger of the Union Army made the announcement upon his arrival in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.

Here is the text of his order, now in the National Archives:

Galveston Texas June 19th 1865

General Orders

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.

By order of Major General Granger

F.W. EmeryMajor A.A. Genl

We leave it to you to divine the meaning behind the advice to the “freedmen” to remain quietly in place and keep working as hired labor. As we all know, this wasn’t the end of the story by a long shot.

It was, however, arguably the beginning of a new chapter in American history, and one that is well deserving of celebration.

The Smithsonian has a wealth of interesting archival materials and interviews about the holiday, which is well worth visiting. And here is a link to information about celebrations across the country. Galveston, for example, will host an annual reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.

WMG publishes a newsletter every week dedicated to holidays of various kinds, called Every Day’s a Holiday, in which we give away fiction and discounted workshops to subscribers. Today’s Juneteenth newsletter offers a short story, “Well-Chosen Words” by award-winning author Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Legend has it that Abraham Lincoln scrawled the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope as he traveled to the battlefield to dedicate a cemetery. But the legend belies Lincoln’s struggle to carefully choose the right words. Words that must soothe a fractured nation, inspire change and chart the course for the nation’s future. Because his speech in Gettysburg will change history, but not necessarily in the way he hopes.

Written by a Sidewise Award winner for Best Alternate History, “Well-Chosen Words” first appeared in an anthology called Alternate Gettysburgs.

“Kristine Kathryn Rusch looks at the anxiety Lincoln had in selecting the ‘Well-Chosen Words’ he would speak at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, while his host, David Wills, fretted about the success of the event itself. The story is well written, with both characters coming to life…”

—Steven H. Silver, SF Site

We thought we’d offer the story to readers of this blog, too, in honor of Juneteenth. Just click here to download your free ebook.

And don’t forget to check out our many bestsellers and award-winners by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch at wmgbooks.com!