National Freedom Day

                   Freedom Sculpture by Zenos Frudakis

The United State’s National Freedom Day is celebrated on February 1, commemorating President Lincoln’s signing of a joint House and Senate resolution that later became the 13th Amendment to the Constitution outlawing slavery.

The holiday was originally conceived by U.S. Army Major Richard Robert Wright, Sr., a former slave, who became the nation’s highest ranking African American during the Spanish American War. After retiring from the military, Wright moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1921. He invited local and national leaders to meet and organize a movement for this holiday—celebrating Lincoln’s signing and the ensuing emancipation. The commemoration was intended to celebrate freedom, but also to bring attention to the continuing struggles of African-Americans for equal rights.

The first commemoration was held at Independence Hall on February 1, 1942. Harry Truman signed a bill on June 30, 1948 proclaiming February 1 as National Freedom Day. Each year’s observance includes the tradition of laying a wreath at the Liberty Bell.

Another notable site in Philadelphia (16th and Vine Streets) is the Freedom sculpture, public art created by Zenos Frudakis. Frudakis drew from his personal experiences in creating the large bronze, and in doing so, discovered many from locations around the world who resonated with the process of breaking free. Frudakis says,

“I created theFreedom sculpture because I knew that the struggle to be free was not just a personal one, but universal to the human condition.”

“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.”

– Abraham Lincoln

“The 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.

More about the Freedom Sculpture >


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