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Tallahassee and Leon County will observe Emancipation Day this week

This Friday, May 20, is a holiday for Tallahassee and Leon County governments.
Svitlana Shalar/Artlana
This Friday, May 20, is a holiday for Tallahassee and Leon County governments.

Tallahassee and Leon County will observe Emancipation Day this week

The City of Tallahassee and Leon County government recognize May 20 as Emancipation Day. That’s the date in 1865 - eleven days after the end of the American Civil War - that the Emancipation Proclamation was read by Union General Edward McCook on the steps of the Knott House. That meant those enslaved in Florida learned they were free two years after the document was issued by President Abraham Lincoln.

"The Emancipation Proclamation freed nearly 4 million people, but it took time for that news to travel. For the more than 8,000 enslaved people in Leon County in 1865, May 20 was their freedom day,” Tallahassee City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox said in a press release. “Commemorating this event can help us better understand our history and how its legacy impacts the present.”

City commissioners approved May 20 as a paid holiday for City employees in November of 2020.

The City of Tallahassee proudly supporting Emancipation Day programs presented by the Knott House Museum and the John G. Riley Center/Museum. The events are free:

Thursday, May 19:

  • 4 - 7 p.m.  "Watching for Freedom, the Dawn of a New Day: Traditions, Customs and Reflections" Dr. Natalie R. King-Pedroso and Cotton Boll Collective will reflect on Freedom Eve and past Emancipation Day celebrations in Florida communities. The event will take place in Parkview at Cascades, 414 E. Bloxham St.

Friday, May 20:

  • 9 a.m. - Church bells in Tallahassee ring to celebrate Florida's Emancipation Day
  • 10 a.m. - John G. Riley Center/Museum Civil War Commemorative Service Local schoolkids will decorate the graves of Civil War era Union soldiers buried at Old City Cemetery, 400 W. Park Ave. The 2nd Infantry Regiment United States Colored Troops will preside.
  • 11:30 a.m. - Historical reenactment and reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Speeches and music will be performed on the steps of the Knott House Museum, 301 E. Park Ave., where the Emancipation Proclamation was first read in Florida. Historian and FAMU Distinguished Professor Dr. Larry Rivers will provide the keynote address. Free lunch and family activities will follow across the street in Lewis Park.
  • 1-4 p.m. - Tours of The Grove Museum, 902 N. Monroe St. Tours will be offered hourly. The State Archives of Florida will be on site with documents related to emancipation in Florida.
  • 2-4 p.m. - Free admission to local history sites
    • Goodwood Museum and Gardens, 1600 Miccosukee Rd.
    • The Grove Museum
    • Tallahassee Museum, 3945 Museum Drive
    • John G. Riley Center/Museum, 419 E. Jefferson St.
    • Museum of Florida History, 500 S. Bronough St.
  • 3 p.m. - Guest Speakers at Tallahassee Museum — Gloria Jefferson Anderson and Hunter Hill will discuss the history of slavery, emancipation and celebration in Leon County.
  • 7-11 p.m. - Emancipation & Abolitionist Ball, presented by the 2nd Infantry Regiment United States Colored Troops Living History Association at the National Guard Armory, 1225 Easterwood Dr. The ball is the 2nd USCT's annual fundraiser. This formal event highlights the era with dinner, entertainment, and attire representative of the period. The evening includes the presentation of the Althemese Barnes Historic Preservation Award. To purchase ball tickets online for a $50 donation, go to RileyMuseum.org.

For more information about Emancipation Day events, visit Museum of Florida History. For more information on the year-round offerings of the City's John G. Riley Center/Museum, visit RileyMuseum.org.

City service changes for Emancipation Day:

The City of Tallahassee's administrative offices will be closed in observance of the Emancipation Day holiday on Friday, May 20.

Garbage and Recycling Collection -- Some residential customers will receive service one day later than their regularly scheduled service. This includes garbage, recycling, bulky items and yard waste, which will impact red week customers:

  • Monday customers ► No change
  • Tuesday customers ► No change
  • Wednesday customers ► No change
  • Thursday customers ► No change
  • Friday customers ► Saturday, May 21

To look up collection dates for specific addresses, please visit Talgov.com. For more information, call 850-891-4968.

StarMetro Routes -- StarMetro, the City's mass transit system, will operate a regular schedule on Friday, May 20. Dial-A-Ride will operate as normal, and the Call Center will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more information, visit Talgov.com/StarMetro or call 850-891-5200.

Animal Services -- The Animal Service Center will be closed on Friday, May 20. Normal hours will resume on Saturday, May 21, with the center opening at 10 a.m. for appointments only. Customers needing more information, including photos of animals available for adoption and to report lost and found pets, may visit Talgov.com/Animals. City Animal Control will be available for emergency situations only this Friday and can be reached via the Consolidated Dispatch Agency at 850-606-5800.

City-run Community Centers -- Community centers operated by the City of Tallahassee Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Affairs Department will be closed Friday, May 20. Centers will resume normal hours on Saturday, May 21. To learn more about the various community centers, visit Talgov.com/Parks.

Leon County holiday closures and service changes for Emancipation Day 

In 2020, Leon County became the first county to officially recognize Florida Emancipation Day as a County holiday.

Closed Friday, May 20 - Leon County offices, libraries, Animal Control, Solid Waste and Household Hazardous Waste Center

Open - Leon County Parks and Recreation facilities (parks, greenways, campgrounds, and boat landings)

Library Resources -- Learn about Florida’s history through the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library System. Visit LeonCountyFL.gov/EmancipationDay for more information.

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.