Posts Tagged ‘Emancipation Proclamation’

This image of the 1905 Emancipation Day parade in Richmond, Virginia is representative of celebrations popular across America into the 20th century.

Celebrations weren’t always held on January 1. Enslaved people in Washington, DC were granted their freedom on April 16, 1862 by the DC Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 which “freed 3,100 individuals, reimbursed those who had legally owned them and offered the newly freed women and men money to emigrate.” A holiday on September 22 commemorated President Lincoln’s 1862 preliminary Emancipation Proclamation which stated that enslaved people in the rebellious states would be freed by January 1, 1863 if those states did not end the fighting and rejoin the Union. Newspapers published for Black readership reported on the events without bias while newpapers intended for White audiences often included derogatory terms and negative stereotypes. Excerpts below are from Virginia newspapers. See the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Chronicle for these items (1903-1919) and more.

“All preparations have been made for the emancipation day parade in this city next Tuesday. It has been determined to invite no other organizations from other cities to participate, but to confine the parade strictly to Alexandria colored people, and only the well-disposed and orderly elements.”
“Emancipation Day Parade,” Alexandria Gazette, September 19, 1903, page 3

“The Afro-American Emancipation Day Association held a largely attended meeting Friday night, and it was estimated between 18,000 and 25,000 colored people from all parts of the country would attend the celebration.”
“Emancipation Day to be lively one,” News Leader, February 26, 1906, page 10
[Note: This was one of several newspapers in Richmond, Virginia. The celebration was planned for April 3d, 1906 — Leslie]

“The colored people had their usual Emancipation Day parade and celebration. All banks and public buildings were closed for the day.”
“New Year’s Day in Suffolk,” Norfolk Landmark, January 2, 1907, page 8

“The usual Emancipation Day parade did not materialize this year, but the students held their exercises in the afternoon. The program included patriotic songs, band music, the reading of the Proclamation, and addresses by Negro and Indian representatives.”
“At Home and Afield,” Southern Workman, February 1, 1911, page 56
[Note: This was a monthly journal published at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia) by Hampton Institute Press — Leslie]

This advertisement invited the public to attend a lecture by Colston Stewart on the “Price of Freedom.” The event was to be held at Washington Street Baptist Church on April 9 at 1pm where “There would be a parade and music.”
[display ad] Bedford Bulletin, April 3, 1919, page 5

“The colored people of the town and county celebrated Emancipation Day, April 9, wih a large parade. There were a number of soldiers in the line, also a Junior Red Cross unit.”
“Personal Mention, Local Happenings,” Waverly Dispatch, April 18, 1919, page 1
[Note: This newspaper was published in Sussex County, Virginia — Leslie]

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The newspaper headline in this painting by H.L. Stephens announces the Emancipation Proclamation. The digital file from color film copy transparency is held by the Library of Congress and can be viewed by clicking here on the image above.

Celebrations weren’t always held on January 1. April 16 was the day enslaved people were freed in Washington, DC. Some local areas celebrated the holiday on September 22, the date of President Lincoln’s preliminary proclamation. Newspapers published for Black readership reported on the events without bias while newpapers intended for White audiences often included negative stereotypes. The excerpts below were published in the Virginia press. See the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Chronicle which is an “historical archive of Virginia newspapers, providing free access to full text searching and digitized images of over 3 million newspaper pages.”

“There was a procession at 12 o’clock in which were the Laboring Sons, Star Club, Union League Club and Frederick Douglass Club. There were also three wagons containing tableaus representing war, emancipation, trades, professions, and industrial and mechanical pursuits. The display was creditable. At 12:30 the visitors took dinner at the fairgrounds. United States Marshall Fred Douglass arrived at 2:10pm and was met at the depot by a large crowd of both races, the desire to see him being general.”
“Celebration of Emancipation Day at Cumberland,” Southern Branch Intelligencer, September 26, 1879, page 2
[Note: This newspaper was published in Romney, Virginia — Leslie]

“The first day of January, the day usually celebrated as emancipation day, is near at hand, and some committees to arrange programs of exercise for that day will be in session, and we would like to offer some suggestions for consideration.,,, But in view of the fact that these meetings are held at only one place in a county or city, making it impossible for many of our old people, especially women, to attend, we would suggest, especially for Gloucester, that meetings be arranged at four or five churches, where old and young, men and women, can come; and that instead of the parade of horses and men, ‘to be seen of men,’ the people meet and listen to a sermon on the subject, unite in praise to God for the emancipations of the past, and in earnest prayer to him for emancipation from ignorance, vice, prejudice, and for the overthrow of strong drink. Too many of the old people who prayed fro the emancipation have never been permitted to enjoy a celebration. Too many young people, and grown ones, too, take it for a day of sport. Too much strong drink is made use of for the best results and enjoyment of such occasions.”
“Emancipation Day,” The Gloucester Letter, November 1, 1894, page 3

“To-day being emancipation day there will be big doings by the colored people of our city who have made the most elaborate preparations. An excursion train of consisting of nine coaches of [offensive term deleted] arrived in the city yesterday from Elkhorn, W. Va., and the intermediate stations and one or two more trains are expected to arrive this morning. There will be a big parade sometime this morning after which there will be a meeting in Davis hall where several speeches will be made by prominent colored men of the city and State.”
“Emancipation Day celebration,” Roanoke Times, January 1, 1898, page 8

“The Butler Zouaves of Washington decided not to go to Warrenton to celebrate emancipation day tomorrow, and the mayor of Warrenton has notified the governor that 100 guns will not be needed.”
“Brief Notes,” Staunton Daily News, September 21, 1899, page 3

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“On January 24, 1863, just twenty-three days after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, Harper’s Weekly published Thomas Nast’s radical illustration depicting both this horrors of slavery and his idea of the future of freed slaves. In this original publication, the inscription below reads, “The Emancipation of the Negroes, January, 1863 – the past and the future (Fig. 3).” The composition is organized into three parts: on the left, brutal scenes of enslaved families; in the center, a domestic scene of a black, middle class family under the banner of “Emancipation;” and finally, scenes of education and employment that will define this family’s life in the future.”
Click here to read the complete article.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a print of the drawing in its collection. Click here or on the image above for details.

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This digital file is at the Library of College. The original print “accompanied a pamphlet published by Lucius Stebbins. Click on the image above for an enlarged view.

“President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation [digitized image] on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared that “all persons held as slaves [within the rebellious states] shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free are.”

“Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the United States, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy (the Southern secessionist states) that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union (United States) military victory.”

To read the entire article on the National Archives website, click on “The Emancipation Proclamation.”

To view a transcript of the Proclamation, click here.

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