The city of Lakeland has formally recognized Juneteenth — June 19 — as an annual day to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. City commissioners unanimously approved a Juneteenth resolution last week after earlier marking May 20 as Florida Emancipation Day.

The resolution, which also urges the state of Florida to continue honoring Juneteenth, was drafted at the request of Lakeland resident Doris Moore Bailey, who has organized local annual Juneteenth observances for 29 years and is Juneteenth national regional director for Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

 Juneteenth, which marks the day in 1865 when a Union army general ordered the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas, has been adopted as a commemoration in nearly every state in the U.S.

The Florida Legislature in 1991 recognized Juneteenth as a day of observance. A bill filed this year to declare Juneteenth a legal holiday has sparked discussions about whether to also mark May 20 as Florida Emancipation Day. At the urging of City Commissioner Phillip Walker, Lakeland weighed in with a February resolution encouraging the adoption of Florida Emancipation Day.

In brief remarks to the commission before they passed the resolution, Bailey praised the work of City Attorney Palmer Davis in drafting the resolution. It reads, in part, “Juneteenth Day is now celebrated broadly throughout the United States as a special day of observance in recognition of the emancipation of all slaves in the United States and in recognition of the centuries-long fight to redeem the American creed of equality for all and the fundamental principle that ‘none are free until all are free’.”

Last year’s Lakeland Juneteenth observance, held in the wake of the springtime social justice protests after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, drew 200 people to Munn Park.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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