National Freedom Day

U.S. lobbyist Richard R. Wright was 9 years old when President Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment to be passed onto Congress for approval, on Feb. 1, 1865. For this reason, Wright lobbied to use the same date – Feb. 1 – as National Freedom Day; a day to celebrate and promote harmony, happiness, and equal opportunity across the United States. June 30, 1948, President Truman signed Proclamation 2824, marking the first of February each year as National Freedom Day.

More than anything, National Freedom Day is a marker for the abolition of slavery, but that act in itself opened up a new era of possibilities for African Americans, lending to the normalization of not just blacks, but many minority cultures, for a better social status in America. This process took a long time over the course of U.S. history. The introduction of the 14th Amendment in 1868, the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924, even the 19th Amendment in 1920 was influenced by this rush of minority rights.

I like to think of National Freedom Day as a sort of turning point within the majority feelings of our country. Although, throughout the 1950s, many people of color were considered second class citizens, the holiday was a declaration that change was being acknowledged for African Americans, Indigenous peoples and women. After this period, it was more common to see inter-racial couples and women in more job roles, and the “second class citizen” label put on so many minorities faded and began to be replaced by a new label: “human beings.”

That being said, even in today’s age, many ethnic groups still deal with some social stigmas. Although seemingly superfluous, many of them are hurtful and can perpetuate demeaning views toward minorities. In my personal experience, however, that isn’t the case, and while my peers seem to know little about this holiday, most find it agreeable to celebrate harmony among races, and equal opportunity for all, throughout the year.

Something I learned by asking my peers about National Freedom Day is that none of them knew about it, and most of them saw it as insincere in its intent. Despite being unknown and perceived as more token than reality, I personally think establishing the day was a bigger step than some realize. Why? Because, more often than not, even an act of superficial value is enough to jumpstart something greater than the act itself, and I see in my generation the embodiment of individuals coming together, without even considering race or background as a factor of someone’s worth.

At the end of the day, everyone is trying to live their lives in the best way they can, and a lot of the time, hoping to bring happiness to others along the way. National Freedom Day brings a chance for all of us to remember this and to hopefully spread the word or act accordingly.

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