National Freedom Day
National Freedom Day
In the United States, citizens celebrate National Freedom Day on February 1st to commemorate the 13th Amendment. Signed by Abraham Lincoln on February 1, 1865, the 13th Amendment officially abolished slavery. While this is the primary purpose of the celebrations, the holiday is also meant to promote freedom for people of all races, genders and religions.
At the end of the Civil War, President Lincoln officially signed the 13th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. This amendment officially declared both slavery and involuntary servitude against the law. This law was years in the making, but it was not signed until 1865 due to controversies within the country. President Lincoln was able to sign the law before his death two months later.
While February 1, 1865 was an historic day, it was not officially celebrated as a holiday until nearly a century later. The idea stemmed from Richard Robert Wright, Sr., who was a former slave. He was born into slavery 10 years before Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment. Upon his emancipation, he would go onto attend school and promote education among all children during the course of his lifetime. He also served in the military, with his most prominent position as major during the Spanish-American War.
Wright eventually settled down in Philadelphia where he had a long and successful career. During this time, he promoted the idea of creating a holiday on February 1st to commemorate the Constitution’s 13th Amendment. Both the Senate and House of Representatives passed the bill in consent of making February 1st National Freedom Day. President Harry Truman signed the bill into law on June 30, 1948. Sadly, Wright didn’t witness his idea coming to fruition, as he died one year earlier at the age of 92.
Every year, a wreath is laid at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to commemorate National Freedom Day. It is predominantly a day of reflection, although there are various types of celebrations across the country. The primary theme of the holiday is freedom for all. Some people celebrate by holding parades, while others hold rallies to promote international freedom.
National Freedom Day is often viewed as a kick-start to Black History Month, which is observed during the entire month of February. However, the concept of this month-long celebration actually got its start in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson. Woodson was an historian who founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and he advocated for the second week of February to be dedicated to the celebration of African-American history. He chose the second week of February because it coincided with the birthdays of abolitionist Frederick Douglass as well as President Lincoln. The weekly celebration would eventually expand to a month, with National Freedom Day as the first official holiday.
National Freedom Day is celebrated across the country, but it isn’t an official federal holiday. This means that schools, banks and the government all stay open on this day. Due to Wright’s lifelong devotion to education, some organizations offer scholarships to prospective college students on National Freedom Day.
National Freedom Day Gift Ideas