Byron Dickens

Byron Dickens presents a proposed proclamation Tuesday before Jackson County Commissioners. The board voted unanimously to adopt it, declaring May 20 Emancipation Day in Jackson County.

A unanimous vote by Jackson County Commissioners this week proclaims May 20 Emancipation Day in the county indefinitely. The full support of the board energized the man who proposed the declaration, Byron L. Dickens.

Founder and president of the newly incorporated Emancipation Day Festival of Northwest Florida, Dickens said the decision helps make soften the disappointment he felt “after an unfortunate dispute which led to the cancellation of the (inaugural) Festival on May 18, 2019,” he said in an email about the proclamation’s passage. "On behalf of the Festival and the Committee, we are overjoyed with this Proclamation and we want to use this momentum to make for an even bigger and successful Festival in 2020," he continued.

“This annual event commemorates the freedom of African-American slaves in the State of Florida which was officially proclaimed on May 20, 1865…two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation was a turning point for members of the Jackson County community and residents statewide. This celebration pays homage to this history while educating the youth and the Jackson County community. His overall goal is to create a Festival that would take advantage of the enormous economic advantages the tourism which passes this area brings and center it around honoring American history, family and community engagement.”

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