EMANCIPATION DAY IN FLORIDA
Newly freed slaves celebrated this announcement with a picnic at Bull's Pond, which is located in Tallahassee and today called Lake Ella. Since that first celebration in 1865, communities in Tallahassee have annually celebrated May 20th as Emancipation Day, and today, activities still are held throughout the city.
“Yesterday was a great day with the Freedmen. It was the anniversary of Gen. McCook’s General Order announcing their freedom, based on Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation of 1863. At an early hour, they commenced coming into town and by 9 o’clock the streets were pretty well crowded….the procession marched up Main street, with the U.S. flag flying at intervals along their ranks. During their march, and all along the road out to the speaking ground, the air was frequently rent with cheers raised through the whole line….In spite of the efforts of the head men to keep them out of the lines, the women would fall in at different places, not being willing that the men should have all the “fun.”
The procession arrived at the ground near Bull’s Pond, about a mile from the town, at 11 o’clock, where some time was consumed in arranging everything preparatory to the commencement of the speaking.”
Excerpt from the Semi-Weekly Floridian, May 21, 1867