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Emancipation Day in Florida is celebrated again with Tallahassee's traditional reenactment on the very spot where that history was made

Cord Byrd reads on steps of knott house
Tom Flanigan
WFSU Public Media
Newly appointed Secretary of State Cord Byrd was among the speakers at the Emancipation Day event

One-hundred fifty-seven years ago, a speech in Tallahassee delivered freedom to Florida’s enslaved people. That scene was reenacted on Friday, May 20 as part of Florida’s Emancipation Day festivities.

Greater St. Marks Primitive Baptist Church Elder Chris Burney led the hundreds of attendees in song.

The event was the first public appearance for Florida’s new Secretary of State Cord Byrd. Governor Ron DeSantis named him to the job last Tuesday, after Laurel Lee resigned to run for congress.

“I want to welcome everyone and thank you for joining us for this 20th of May celebration, Emancipation in Florida,” he said by way of greeting the crowd.

There were many more speeches, all leading up to the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation from the steps of Tallahassee’s Knott House. The very location the document was read in Florida for the first time in 1865.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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