TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — 156 years ago today, slaves in Florida were freed. On Wednesday, a celebration across the county commemorated the growth throughout the years.
At the Soul of Southside Fish Fry, 96.1 radio host Joe Bullard brought the soul music.
"This was party central and now it's back again," said Bullard.
While Boss Man's Barbecue brought the soul food. Barbara Davis was one of the hundreds of people to stop by for the early morning festivities.
"I had a neighbor who used to barbecue on Juneteenth. It makes me think of her because she died from COVID. She would've been so pleased to see it," she said.
May 20, 1865, is the day the Emancipation Proclamation was read in Leon County. That freed African-Americans statewide from slavery. Those same words were read once again in Leon County Wednesday.
"It feels like going to Vegas. I hear the machine already. I like the fact that's it now official because a lot of people don't even work on the day already," said Joe Bullard.
For the first time, county and city workers didn't have to play hooky.
"We're very proud to have Leon County be the very first in the state to recognize Emancipation Day as a paid government holiday," said Leon County Commission Chairman Rick Minor.
It's a change that Sheriff Walt McNeil has anticipated.
"It's been difficult to get this to be a holiday, particularly nationally, but the fact that we in Leon county have done that and set the stage for the state and the county. I'm really excited about that," said Sheriff McNeil.
Now the county pledges to continue to share why this day means so much.
"History can teach us some painful lessons but they also are reminders that we can build a stronger future. We need to be reminded of the oppression that many people who lived here endured," said Commissioner Minor.
You can find a list of events leading into the weekend by clicking here.