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Leon County Designates May 20 As Emancipation Day Holiday For Employees

An old black and white photograph shows African Americans gathered around a stage. One man in a suit and hat walks across the stage.
Florida Memory Project
African American workers and tenants celebrating Emancipation Day (May 20) at Horseshoe Plantation located in the northern part of Leon County.

May 20 will now be a paid holiday for Leon County government employees. County commissioners created the new holiday in recognition of the day in 1865, when Tallahassee slaves were told they were free. Commissioner Bill Proctor says May 20 remains a special day for residents related to slaves.

"And when that glorious news came down in 1865, it was there at the corner of Calhoun and Park Avenue that this document was read," Proctor says.

Nationwide, people typically commemorate Emancipation Day on June 19, known as Juneteenth. That's the day news of the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War reached slaves in Texas, the last Southern state. But Proctor says Florida should celebrate its own history. The Leon County Commission is asking the legislature to create a state-wide holiday recognizing May 20 as Emancipation Day.

Robbie Gaffney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.