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WASHINGTON – It was called General Orders No. 3 and issued by U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865. The original handwritten “Juneteenth” military order, a two-paragraph notation informing thousands of people held in bondage that they were free, resides in the National Archives, The Washington Post reported.

Juneteenth — a combination of June and 19th — is also called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. It is the oldest known celebration recognizing the end of slavery in the United States.

The orders were written in a volume that began on one page and carried over to the next, according to the National Archives. The two-paragraph orders were signed by Maj. F.W. Emery on behalf of Granger.

“The National Archives safeguards many of the nation’s most important records related to African American history and civil rights, and General Order Number 3 is one of those records,” Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said in a statement. “We know from history that certain events took place, and it’s always a delight when we can help make history come alive by sharing the actual documentation of those events.”

General Orders No. 3 states:

“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.”

Original Juneteenth document protected at National Archives

The original copy of General Otders No. 3 is at the National Archives in Washington.

The printed version is part of the “War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies” volumes published in the 1880s and 1890s, according to the National Archives.

The document will be officially digitized and added to the National Archives Catalog, as well as highlighted on NARA’s African American History page.

“A lot of people may not realize we have the original document in our holdings,” Trevor K. Plante, director of archival operations at the National Archives Building, said in a news release. “One of our public affairs specialists reached out to me to see if we had General Orders 3. I searched for the document in our holdings in support of this story. I think this is an important record for American history, and more importantly, African American history.”