Free Bible course

--- » Emancipation Day

Emancipation Day

Christmas was a mixed blessing for many African Americans during slavery times. On the one hand, many plantation slaves received GIFTS, time off, extra food rations, and visiting privileges (see SLAVES’ CHRISTMAS). On the other hand, they dreaded the coming of the new year, when the holidays ended and some slave masters announced which slaves would be sold off or sent to work on neighboring plantations that year, thereby breaking up families and friends.

First Celebrations
On January 1,1863, President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law, turning the day from one of sorrow into one of great joy. The proclamation granted immediate freedom to most slaves in the American South. Lincoln, occupied with the NEW YEAR’S DAY reception (or levee) that nineteenth-century presidents hosted on January 1, did not sign the document until that afternoon (see also WHITE HOUSE, CHRISTMAS IN). African Americans in Washington, D.C., snatched up copies of the evening newspapers containing the full text of the proclamation as soon as they were printed. Shouts of joy went up as the proclamation was read aloud to the congregation gathered at Washington, D.C.’s Israel Bethel Church. Spontaneous celebrations soon broke out all over the city and lasted until the small hours of the morning, punctuated for some time by the booming of the Navy Yard cannons.
In Boston, a city known for its abolitionist sympathies, a program of celebration had been prepared some time in advance (Lincoln having announced his intention to sign the Emancipation Proclamation 100 days earlier). The city’s music hall hosted a gala event that afternoon, at which the orchestra played Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. In addition, well-known poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) recited his “Boston Hymn,” written specially for this event. Other noted literary and political figures also attended the celebration, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935), John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909), Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908), Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), and Josiah Quincy (1772-1864). Another gathering took place that evening at Tremont Temple. The crowd cheered wildly when it was announced that the text of the Emancipation Proclamation was coming in over the telegraph wires. African-American author William Wells Brown (1815-1880) and orator Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) were in attendance there.

Annual Celebrations
Not everyone received the news of emancipation on January 1. African Americans in Texas had to wait till June 19, 1865, when United States General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston. There he issued General Order number three, announcing the news of the Emancipation Proclamation and freeing the slaves in accordance with the now two-and-a-half-year-old law.
African Americans in east Texas, western Louisiana, southwestern Arkansas, and southern Oklahoma memorialized June 19, the joyous day of their liberation, by turning it into an annual holiday called Juneteenth. African Americans in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, NEW YORK CITY, and Boston continued to celebrate the anniversary of their independence on January 1, Emancipation Day.
Early observances of Emancipation Day were modeled after WATCH NIGHT celebrations. Some African-American communities continue to commemorate January 1 as Emancipation Day. Typical proceedings revolve around church services that include a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, sermons, prayers, and the singing of spirituals as well the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known informally as the African-American national anthem.
Emancipation Day
Add comments

American business