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20th of May Calendar of Events


Saturday, May 20

Signature events

9:00 a.m. Church bells in the Tallahassee area will ring for 2 minutes to announce the dawning of the special day of freedom.

10:00 a.m. John G. Riley Center/Museum Civil War Commemorative Service at the Old City Cemetery

Commemorative Grave Decorating Service, and Union Soldier Reenactment, with twenty-one-gun salute, in tribute to fallen soldiers, a historical tradition of the ancestors. Commissioner Bill Proctor will lead children from Kingdom Life Preparatory Academy and the public in decorating the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers.

11:30 a.m. Dramatic reading of the Emancipation Proclamation

Speeches and music are presented on the front steps of the Knott House Museum. This year’s program features a special guest performance by John Anderson portraying Frederick Douglass and the Mina String Quartet from the Tallahassee

Symphony Orchestra. After the program, free lunch and activities are available in Lewis Park across from the Knott House Museum.


Other events

2:00—4:00 p.m., “Follow the Drinking Gourd!” at The Grove Museum

Join The Grove Museum for a special tour that explores different routes enslaved African Americans took towards freedom. Utilizing maps, oral stories, primary sources, and active engagement, visitors can formulate a narrative about the pathways individuals took after Emancipation.

7:00—11:00p.m., Emancipation and Abolitionist Ball at the National Guard Armory (admission charge)

This formal event highlights the era with a special menu, entertainment, and attire representative of the period. Highlights include historical presentations by the 2nd USCT and guests, and the presentation of the Althemese Barnes Historic Preservation Award to Mr. Eluster Richardson. For more information and for tickets visit


Other Tallahassee Events in May

MAY 1–31

Division of Library and Information Services various resources at:


10:00 a.m.—4:00 p.m., Walk Through Living History

at Speed Spencer Stephens Park

Living history celebration and commemoration of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in the State of Florida, which occurred May 20, 1865.

Family-friendly event for all ages.



2:00—4:00 p.m., Journeys: Celebrating Emancipation Day at Tallahassee Museum

Guided tour focusing on Emancipation Day history and the museum’s historic African American structures.



6:00—7:00 p.m., “Emancipation Day in the Future: Where Do We Go from Here?” at the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library

A panel of local professors and historians discuss how Florida Emancipation Day was historically celebrated and how people can commemorate the event today. Moderated by Althemese Barnes.



2:30 p.m., Watching for Freedom 2023: 20th of May Culture Keeper Honorees at Parkview at Cascades

The John Gilmore Riley Foundation and Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network are recognizing twelve individuals whose leadership and advocacy have sustained, preserved, and validated Florida’s emancipation history and culture in North Florida.



10:00 a.m.—3:00 p.m., Tours at Goodwood Museum & Gardens

Guided tours of the first floor of the Main House and basement will focus on the lives of the enslaved who lived on the property.

7:00—11:00 p.m., Freedom’s Eve Emancipation Concert located at Adderley Amphitheater-Cascades Park

The Tallahassee Symphony will host a free Freedom’s Eve concert in the Adderley Amphitheater featuring music by the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, the Tallahassee Symphony Jazz Orchestra, and Tallahassee Nights Live.


May 20th Events Around the State