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National Freedom Day

Each year 36 U.S. Code § 124 authorizes the sitting President of the United States to issue a proclamation designating February 1st as National Freedom Day to commemorate the signing of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

The bill was signed into law on June 30, 1948 by President Harry S. Truman. Although National Freedom Day is not a federal holiday, it is important because each year it keeps the horrors of institutionalized slavery in our consciousness so it won't be soon be forgotten.

On February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that made slavery and forced servitude illegal in the United States its territories. Although the bill was signed into law in 1865, it was not ratified by all states until several years later.

Since 1942, several years before President Truman signed the bill into law, ceremonies were already being held on February 1st commemorating National Freedom Day. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, there was an annual wreath laying ceremony at the Liberty Bell, the national symbol of American freedom.

Much of the credit for the creation of National Freedom Day goes to Major Richard Robert Wright, a former slave and businessman who helped organize the National Freedom Day Association to bring attention to the plight of millions of former slaves who were still struggling under oppressive laws and social stigmas designed to keep them from gaining real freedom.

Throughout his life, Major Wright fought for the creation of a specific day of the year that would be dedicated to recognizing the importance of freedom, not just for slaves of African descent, but for all citizens of the United States and the rest of the world.

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