Tennessee State Capitol

Tennessee State Capitol (WSMV file photo)

NASHVILLE (WSMV) - A Democratic state representative from Knoxville wants a state holiday for the day a former president freed his slaves nearly 156 years ago.

State Representative Rick Staples said the Emancipation Day celebrations are traditionally held on August 8 and commemorate a day in 1863 that future President Andrew Johnson freed his slaves in Greene County, prior to the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The resolution states celebrations are documented in Greene County “at least as early as 1875 in The Greeneville American, and over one hundred years ago in The Greeneville Herald and Knoxville Sentinel.” It also notes that Emancipation Day ceremonies have been observed in Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas and Missouri.

Rep. Staples said, “In 2007, the legislature recognized August 8 as a day of special observance. This is the next logical step in honoring the history of Tennesseans of African descent in this state,” said Rep. Staples in a statement.

The bill, HB1544, is the first legislation filed for consideration when the lawmakers return to their regular, called session in January 2020.

EDITORS NOTE: An earlier version of this article noted Andrew Johnson was the president at the time he freed his slaves, when in fact it was actually Abraham Lincoln. Andrew Johnson was a future president. This has been corrected.

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