While slavery was abolished in Florida technically by the Emancipation Proclamation, it was on May 20, 1865 that Emancipation was proclaimed aloud in Tallahassee, the state capital. Tallahassee had been the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi that was not captured by the Union during the Civil War, a source of pride for many Floridians when I was growing up (thankfully, times have changed and few boast about this any longer).
Tallahassee wasn’t Florida’s largest town by a long shot in 1865, but the area around the capital had the greatest concentration of plantations where African-Americans were held in bondage, so May 20 is more than symbolic – it was the date of real emancipation.
During the Civil War, era, Florida had no cities, but the state did have three fairly large towns: Pensacola, Key West and Jacksonville. Each of these towns was occupied by the Union early in the war. Last week we did a video on Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West and its role as a Union bulwark during the war.
While slaves were freed in union occupied areas, the vast majority of African-Americans in the state remained in bondage until May 1865 when the union formally resumed control of Florida.
This came a full month before Juneteenth which we celebrate as both Floridians and Americans today.