By 1860, Belle Meade was home to 136 enslaved men, women, and children. Their numerous skills and talents included blacksmithing, horse breeding, training, grooming, and racing. Additionally, Belle Meade’s domestic staff was famous for their award-winning wines, cordials, and cooking skills. Today, we honor their legacy and recognize the triumph of black excellence. Their strength and spirit can be heard about in our tours, seen in the quality of the construction of our outbuildings, and felt in the photographs we have throughout the property. We honor the lives of these individuals who are an integral part of the history of Belle Meade.
Juneteenth celebrates the issuance of General Order No. 3 by Major General Gordon Granger to the people of Texas on June 19, 1865, ordering that all slaves in the state be freed. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been in effect to a limited extent for two years, and although the 13th Amendment (which declared slavery unconstitutional) had been passed by Congress earlier in the year, the slow speed with which information was disseminated meant that many people living in enslavement in Texas did not realize that freedom had come. While full emancipation across the South did not happen overnight, over time June 19th came to symbolize a date of independence for the formerly enslaved. Beginning in 1866, former enslaved men and women in Texas celebrated the first “Juneteenth”.