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2020 Virtual 20th of May Celebration

20th of May Celebration- May 20, 2020

The Museum of Florida History and John G. Riley Museum were pleased to present a virtual 20th of May celebration. This date is the anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation's announcement in Tallahassee. The 20th of May virtual event includes special video presentations, activities for families to do at home, and a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.


20th of May Commemoration Remarks from Florida's Secretary of State, Laurel M. Lee


The importance of 20th of May, a message from Mrs. Althemese Barnes

Mrs. Althemese Barnes, the Founder and Director of the John G. Riley Center/Museum, our co presenter of this commemoration since 2001, discusses the importance of this day to the African American community in Tallahassee. 


Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation

For many years at the Emancipation Day celebration, Mr. Brian Bibeau has portrayed General Edward McCook during a dramatic reading of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. This year we are honored to have a number of our community members join him in reading the Emancipation Proclamation. Download a transcript of the Emancipation Proclamation or turn on closed captioning in the video and follow along as they read this important document.



Freedom Beat

One of the 2019-2020 Florida Folklife Apprenticeship awards went to Master artist Hunter Hill Jr. and apprentice Christopher White of Tallahassee for emancipation drumming. In Florida, the Emancipation Proclamation was announced on the 20th of May, by General Edward McCook. Twentieth of May celebrations are accompanied by a specific drum beat that has been passed down since 1867. In this video, some of the last remaining emancipation drummers share the "freedom beat" with Tallahassee youth.

The Florida Folklife Program documents, presents and preserves Florida’s vibrant folklife and traditional culture. The Folklife Apprenticeship Program supports the sharing of folklife, or Florida’s living traditions, within communities across the state. These awards fund study between a master and apprentice artist, enabling them to work together to share traditional knowledge, skills, and techniques.


Community Supporters

The Museum of Florida History and John G. Riley Museum thank the following organizations and businesses for their support of the 20th of May commemoration.

City of Tallahassee
Council on Culture and the Arts
Friends of the Museums of Florida History, Inc.
Hopping, Green & Sams, P.A.
Sonny’s BBQ
Tallahassee Community Redevelopment Agency



Community Partners

Ash Gallery
Black Archives at the Union Bank
Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network
Florida Division of Library and Information Services
Florida Historic Capitol Museum
Goodwood Museum and Gardens
Leon Rifles Historical Reenactors
LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library System
Meek-Eaton Black Archives and Research Center and Museum
Smith-Williams Service Center, City of Tallahassee
Tallahassee Museum
Tallahassee Urban League
Taylor House Museum of Historic Frenchtown
The Grove Museum
The 2nd Infantry Regiment United States Colored Troops Living History Association
Walker-Ford Community Center, City of Tallahassee


Sponsored in part by the State of Florida through the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture