154 years of emancipation celebrated in Monticello

Ashley Hunter
ECB Publishing, Inc.

Underneath the bright, warm sun that graced the late-morning Monday, May 20 day, Jefferson County's first responders and law enforcement officers, Jefferson Somerset JROTC cadets and a visiting mascot and marching band celebrated Emancipation Day in Monticello.
The celebration was marked by a parade up South Jefferson Street, where the entourage rounded the courthouse and eventually made their way along East Washington Street and towards the Martin Luther King Community Center.
Leading the way for the parade was Monticello Police Department's Chief Fred Mosley, followed closely by Jefferson County Sheriff Mac McNeill and Jefferson County Fire Rescue (JCFR) Chief Derrick Burrus, driving an ambulance.
In addition to the flashing police, sheriff and ambulance lights, JCFR brought out their bright red Engine 1 and Tanker 1 trucks for the parade.
Following law enforcement, Jefferson Somerset's Junior Officer Training Corps (JROTC) cadets recited chants and carried both the State of Florida flag and the flag of the United States.
Leading and walking alongside the cadets was JROTC's 1st Sgt. Terry Walker.
Before the cadets passed the courthouse, parade-watchers could already hear the exciting pounding of drums as the visiting marching band from Gadsden County High School (GCHS) approached.
Accompanied by the GCHS' mascot – a waving jaguar – the marching band brought the musical sound of celebration with them as they rounded the courthouse.
This parade marked the 154th year of celebrating emancipation for all enslaved persons within the state of Florida.
While nationally, Emancipation Day is celebrated in April, people who were enslaved in Florida were not lawfully released from their bonds until May 20, 1865 – 11 days after the end of the Civil War and two years after President Abraham Lincoln released his proclamation of emancipation.
For 154 years, Floridians of all races have been freed under the proclamation that declared "that all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be, free."