By: TaKeia N. Anthony, Ph.D.

Executive Director of the Asa Philip Randolph

Social Justice, Law, and Economic Policy Institute

 

As the nation rightfully prepares to celebrate Juneteenth, let’s also not forget Florida’s Emancipation Day was May 20th.

What is Juneteenth? Juneteenth is a national holiday that commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States.

What is Emancipation Day?  Emancipation Day is the day enslaved people were lawfully free in that respective former slave state.  May 20th is Emancipation Day in Florida.  On this day, in 1865, Union troops read the Emancipation Proclamation in Tallahassee, which declared all enslaved persons free.  Some other former slave states’ Emancipation Days are August 8 in Kentucky and Tennessee, April 16 in Washington DC, and the most known Juneteenth on June 19 in Galveston, Texas.  Juneteeth is the most known Emancipation Day because it was the last.  After the Union troops reached Galveston, Texas in 1865 with news of freedom, all enslaved Africans and their descendants were freed in the United States.  Thus, Juneteenth was made a national holiday on June 17, 2021.

The celebration of Juneteenth and Emancipation Day does not ignore the Africans and their descendants who freed themselves.  Their acts of valor were the catalyst to freedom.  Juneteenth and Emancipation Day is a celebration of the law(s) that prohibits the institution of slavery.  President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved people in Confederate States; Florida was one.  However, slavery remained in Union states until 1865 when the 13th amendment was passed and ratified by Congress.  The 13th amendment[1] abolishes slavery in the United States.

Celebrating Freedom: Over the years African-American communities have celebrated Juneteenth and Emancipation Day with various activities that include parades, educational programs, and Civil War reenactments, to name a few.  This year the A. Philip Randolph Social Justice, Law, and Economic Policy Institute at Edward Waters University encourages all to celebrate Juneteenth and Florida’s Emancipation Day by demonstrating the freedoms our Florida ancestors fought for and deserved.  Slavery determined that Africans and their descendants were property and not people.  Therefore, this Juneteenth humanize yourself.  The following are some suggestions but are not limited to the celebrations of the day.

Mental Health: Explore your feelings, unpack all that you were taught to suppress.  Seek counseling to process and better understand your feelings so that generational traumas are healed.

Physical Health: Focus or continue to focus on your physical health.  Make that doctor’s appointment, take a walk, meditate and focus on your breathing, stretch.  Take this Juneteenth to incorporate a form of physical activity into your daily or weekly routine.

Diet: Eat a healthy meal.  The traditional slave diet was salted pork and corn; celebrate Juneteenth by overthrowing the slave diet and eating healthy foods that contribute to the wellbeing of your body.

Leisure Time: During slavery there was the lack of leisure time for the enslaved and they did not have the freedom to move about without a pass.  For this Juneteenth celebration, create leisure time and/or travel and explore someplace new.  Plan that vacation!

Register to Vote: Africans and their descendants have been at the center of the voting discussion since arriving on these shores.  From the 3/5th compromise during slavery to Reconstruction’s 15th amendment to the current discussion on the Black vote in the upcoming election.  This Juneteenth humanize yourself by registering to vote and then take advantage of this right in November for the Presidential election and forthcoming local and state elections.

Education: After the 1831 Nat Turner Rebellion, most slave states made it illegal for enslaved people to learn to read and write.  Therefore, to commemorate Juneteenth take advantage of education; read a book, write a story or start a journal, enroll in a class, learn something new.

Give Back: If you are unable to participate in any of these activities, then please donate to a local Historically Black College or University (HBCU) or an institution or organization whose mission is to educate the descendants of formerly enslaved people.  You can donate to Florida’s first HBCU, Edward Waters University, here.  It was founded in 1866 immediately after the Civil War by the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and named in honor of the third AME bishop.

As we celebrate the end of slavery in the United States with Juneteenth, Lets also remember May 20th was Emancipation Day in Florida. Let’s not forget all the sacrifices our ancestors endured. You have the power to reimagine freedom, express it this Juneteenth and beyond.

Happy Juneteenth and Florida Emancipation Day!

[1] See 13th documentary for a deeper understanding of the 13th amendment.