Journey to Juneteenth events kick off with Florida Emancipation Day ceremony


The City of Gainesville launches its second annual Journey to Juneteenth series of events beginning with a flag-raising ceremony Friday where Mayor Pro-tem Reina Saco will proclaim Florida Emancipation Day throughout the city.

When: Friday, May 20, 9-10 a.m. 

Where: City Hall Plaza

The ceremony officially recognizes Florida’s actual emancipation date – May 20, 1865 – the day when enslaved Africans first learned of their freedom in Tallahassee, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

“May 20th is significant and important for Floridians because it does mark the date when the Emancipation Proclamation was read in the state of Florida at the Knott House in Tallahassee,” said Deloris Rentz, a member of the Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center. “When you are celebrating, you want to celebrate the anniversary that directly affected you.”

Journey to Juneteenth, A Season of Freedom: Florida Emancipation to National Celebration is a month-long series of community events in Gainesville. The program culminates June 19th, the date when communities nationwide commemorate the announcement of freedom reaching Texas in 1865.

“It’s a time for us to educate those who are coming behind us,” said Zeriah Folston, interim director of the city’s Office of Equity and Inclusion. “I’m excited. We have events, plus community conversations, and events within the communities and neighborhoods.”

This year’s events include:

  • Children’s Scavenger Hunt at Depot Park, Sat., May 21 from 4-6:30 p.m.
  • Movie at Depot Park: Queen of Katwe, Sat., May 21 from 7-9 p.m.
  • Alyne Harris art sale at the Historic Thomas Center Fri., June 3 from 5-8 p.m.
  • Freedom Walk at Depot Park Sat., June 18 from 7-11 a.m.

Journey to Juneteenth is sponsored by HCA Florida North Florida Hospital, a part of HCA Florida Healthcare. Community partners include Alachua County, the Cade Museum for Creativity & Innovation; the Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center; Gainesville Black Professionals; GNV Art Jam; MAMA’s Club; and Nathan Ross, Inc.

A complete calendar of community events can be found online at

To help ensure public health and safety, neighbors are asked to follow CDC recommendations including social distancing guidance for COVID-19 at events.