- Faith & Family
Technically, the document that ended slavery and freed all of the slaves was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863.
Yet it was not until more than two years later that the proclamation’s words were finally read in Tallahassee. Now known as “20-Some May,” various organizations and festivities throughout Florida celebrate the state’s Emancipation Day.
Last Saturday, May 20th, the Old Dillard Museum in Ft. Lauderdale held their annual mini-festival in honor of the holiday.Among the featured acts were performances by the Venus Rising Drum and Dance Ensemble, the Dillard High School Jazz Ensemble, jazz guitarist Sherman Hunter and the Children of Kuumba.
The museum also exhibited a timeline displaying the actual abolition of slavery among varying states and foreign countries as well.
Waiting for freedom
The news of the Emancipation Proclamation was announced in downtown Tallahassee at the present-day site of the Knott house on May 20th, 1865. But why did the slaves in Florida not learn of their freedom until years afterward?
The news had been delayed due to Florida’s geographical location and population size.
By the mid-1800s, Florida’s population had grown to approximately 140,000. And of those citizens, an estimated 63,000 were of African descent. Once the country was fighting the Civil War, the state proved an invaluable resource to the Confederacy due to its ability to send food and supplies to the rest of the upstart nation. But the state’s huge coastlines prevented the Union Navy from implementing a totally successful blockade to prevent the transport of these goods. The lack of Union control allowed Florida to decide to inform its slaves and citizens about the Emancipation Proclamation at its own pace. Therefore it was not until after more than two years that the freedom document’s words were read by Brigadier General Edward Moody McCook at the present-day site of the Knott House Museum in Tallahassee.
Now the museum is the site of an annual commemoration festivities that includes a reenactment of the reading of the proclamation.
Later this summer, the Old Dillard Museum will also honor the more popularly recognized emancipation holiday, Juneteenth, with commemoration services held on June 19th beginning at 6 p.m.
By Kaila Heard