Florida may make ‘Emancipation Day’ official

The Emancipation Proclamation. Photo courtesy: Harvard gazette

There is another thing to celebrate during this year’s Black History Month: the Florida Senate is pushing to designate Emancipation Day.

Senate Bill 1500, introduced by Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, is thriving to make May 20 “Emancipation Day” to celebrate the day enslaved African Americans in Florida were informed of the Emancipation Proclamation — in other words, their freedom. Included in the bill, public officials, schools, private organizations, and all residents are encouraged to honor the importance of the day.

The bill was originally filed in early January and introduced on Jan. 18.

During the Feb. 7 meeting, Sen. Bracy spoke about how the bill has two main functions. The first is to designate Emancipation Day and the second is to clarify that June 19 — “Juneteenth” —is the day that the remaining enslaved were set free. If the bill is approved and goes into effect, the 2023-2024 school year requires “at least 45 minutes of instruction” on the importance of Emancipation Day and Juneteenth for high school students who are enrolled in a United States history course.

For Tallahassee resident Mary Kate Beasley, this bill can do a lot of good for high school students’ understanding of their country’s history.

“I see nothing wrong with [the bill],” Beasley said. “While there are people in this world who will have a problem with it for various reasons, the way I see it, this is pushing us towards change and giving the Black community the good they deserve. Just like how we make sure people know about other historical events, I don’t see why we can’t celebrate together the freeing of slaves and teach it to students.”

“Last summer, I had the privilege of celebrating Juneteenth with some friends and I had a blast watching the fireworks and eating good food. These two holidays are when Blacks were officially free, why not make them holidays and teach it?” she added.

Paul Parmarter, another Tallahassee resident, says that it’s about time the Florida government gave the Black community the respect to celebrate and teach about the day African Americans were officially freed.

So far, the bill does not have a related bill in the House of Representatives, but it was successful by going through its first Senate Committee, Governmental Oversight and Accountability, with a 6-0 vote. The bill is headed to the Education Committee before heading to the Rules Committee.