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So, What is Freedom Day?

By Luana M. Graves Sellars

If you’re reading this on February 1st, Happy Freedom Day! So, What’s Freedom Day? Well, it’s one of the most important days in American history and a day that is very special in the Black community. Freedom Day should be a national holiday, just like the fourth of July or Juneteenth; it’s the day that slaves finally received word of the emancipation proclamation, letting them know that they were free. Haven’t heard about Juneteenth either? I’m not surprised. Like most Black history, both Freedom Day and Juneteenth have for the most part been left out of United States history books.

But for now, that’s a conversation for another day.

Photo Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

Back to Freedom Day. February 1st, 1865 was the day that President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution into law freeing slaves.

With these words and a joint resolution of Congress, President Lincoln ushered in freedom for millions of enslaved people, although, the number of states that were needed to ratify the amendment wasn’t reached until December 6th, 1865.

Unfortunately, Lincoln didn’t live to see the amendment ratified, even though the end of slavery sparked celebrations nationwide.

But hold on a second, that’s getting ahead of the story. That was 1865. To begin the story of freedom, you need to go back a few years to 1862 and the actual time and place where freedom really began for slaves – on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, in a historic town called Mitchelville; as well as an important part of the Underground Railroad.

Did I pique your interest? To follow the story, click here for the documentary telling you all about the slaves who lived as freedmen in Mitchelville, the birthplace of freedom beginning in 1862. Freedom Day: Exploring the Families of Historic Mitchelville

For more on Juneteenth check out these articles – Juneteenth or Juneteenth: All of this Talk about Reconstruction

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