February 1 is National Freedom Day

National Freedom Day is celebrated on February 1. The day calls attention to the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which ended slavery.

The Thirteenth Amendment has two parts. Section I says “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Section II gives Congress the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

By 1861, when the Civil War broke out, more than 4 million people (nearly all of them of African descent) were held as slaves in 15 southern and border states.

The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War. The Thirteenth Amendment was the first explicit mention of the institution of slavery in the U.S. Constitution.

On January 31, 1865, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the proposed Thirteenth Amendment with a vote of 119-56, just over the required two-thirds majority. The next day, President Lincoln approved a joint resolution of Congress submitting it to the state legislatures for ratification.

Unfortunately, President Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865. It took until December 6, 1865, for the necessary number of states to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment. Congress used the power given to it by that Amendment to require the former Confederate states to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment.

The National Freedom Day Association was founded by Richard Robert Wright, Sr., who was born a slave. He was a community leader who felt this day should be celebrated. He died in 1947 at the age of 94. Congress passed a bill to make National Freedom Day a recognized holiday.

In 1949, President Harry S. Truman issued Proclamation 2824. In it, he designated February 1, 1949, and National Freedom Day. He called upon “the people of the United States to pause on that day in solemn contemplation of the glorious blessings and freedom which we humbly and thankfully enjoy.”

Related Articles at FamilyTree.com:

* The Origin of Black History Month

* Volunteers Index More than 1 Million Freedman’s Bureau Records

* African-Americans Serving in Civil War

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