Richard Robert Wright, Sr.
Despite being born a slave on May 16, 1855, Major Richard Robert Wright, Sr. was a post-reconstruction pioneer and trailblazer, who made remarkable contributions in education, banking, politics, publishing, journalism, real estate, and civic affairs. Among his many accomplishments, he founded a high school, a college, and a bank; and owned several newspapers.
He also founded the National Freedom Day Association, and worked toward establishing a national day to commemorate freedom for all people.
On February 1, 1941, Major Wright invited national and local leaders to meet in Philadelphia to formulate plans to set aside February 1st each year to memorialize the signing of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution by President Lincoln on February 1, 1865. One year after Wright’s death in 1947, a bill passed both U.S. Houses of Congress, making February 1st National Freedom Day, and was signed into law on June 30, 1948.
In subsequent years, forty governors and all mayors of Philadelphia have issues proclamations, designating February 1 as National Freedom Day in their respective states and city. The purpose of the annual observance is to promote goodwill, harmony, and equal opportunity among all citizens, and to rededicate the nation to the ideal of freedom.