National Freedom Day is a United States observance on February 1 honoring the signing by Abraham Lincoln of a joint House andSenate resolution that later became the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. President Lincoln signed the Amendment outlawing slavery on February 1, 1865, although it was not ratified by the states until later.
Major Richard Robert Wright Sr., a former slave, believed that there should be a day when freedom for all Americans is celebrated. While living in Philadelphia towards the end of his life, he invited local and national leaders to meet to organize a movement for a national holiday to commemorate Lincoln's signing of the 13th Amendment. The resulting National Freedom Association proposed having a memorial date to call attention to the continuing struggle for freedom for African-Americans. Since President Lincoln had signed the 13th Amendment on the first day of February, that date was chosen to celebrate National Freedom Day. The first commemoration took place on February 1, 1942, at Independence Hall. As it has every year since, the remembrance included laying a wreath at the Liberty Bell.
In the U.S. Code of Ethics at Cornell University National Freedom Day is written in the law books as:
§ 124. National Freedom Day The President may issue each year a proclamation designating February 1 as National Freedom Day to commemorate the signing by Abraham Lincoln on February 1, 1865, of the joint resolution adopted by the Senate and the House of Representatives that proposed the 13th amendment to the Constitution.
National Freedom Day has been observed since February 1, 1948 when Truman signed a bill proclaiming the day occur February 1. On this day many towns have festivals, while other citizens reflect on the freedoms that the United States honors and to appreciate the goodwill of the United States. Wreath-laying at the Liberty Bell has also been a tradition to mark National Freedom Day for many years. Symbols of the day may include a theme about freedom for all Americans.
According to americaslibrary.gov National Freedom Day is defined as:
"[t]he purpose of this holiday is to promote good feelings, harmony, and equal opportunity among all citizens and to remember that the United States is a nation dedicated to the ideal of freedom. Major Richard Robert Wright Sr., a former slave, fought to have a day when freedom for all Americans is celebrated. When Wright got his freedom, he went on to become a successful businessman and community leader in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Major Wright chose February 1 as National Freedom Day because it was the day in 1865 that President Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.... The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery in the United States. Wright gathered national and local leaders together to write a bill declaring February 1 "National Freedom Day" and President Harry Truman signed the bill in 1948 making it official."
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