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Freedom Drumming

An important part of the May 20th celebrations is the 20th of May drumbeat. This Leon county hidden cultural gem is a tradition that coincides with the remembrance of the emancipation of enslaved Africans in Tallahassee on May 20th, 1865.

Today Hunter Hill is among those working to keep the beat of Emancipation Day alive. The community that Hill was raised in were all taught the beat, in preparation to play it at the celebration each May 20th. Now he carries on this tradition, teaching the the ancestral emancipation drumbeat to newer generations and helping to preserve the cultural importance of the Emancipation Day celebrations.  


 One of the 2019-2020 Florida Folklife Apprenticeship awards went to Master artist Hunter Hill Jr. of Tallahassee for emancipation drumming. This program keeps traditional knowledge alive by passing it to an apprentice. The next year, John G. Riley Museum continued this project by inviting others in the community to learn the freedom beat. This new documentary explores history behind the drumming and the success of the emancipation drumming program.